In Encountering "the Other," Jean Vanier, founder of the worldwide L'Arche communities for people with developmental disabilities, connects appreciation of differences with peacemaking:
"We are in a world where we all want peace, and we all love peace. But the question will always be 'Are we prepared to work for it?' And to work for it can mean to put one's life in danger. It can mean to cross over barriers where one is not always understood or respected. Cross over the frontiers to meet the other, to encounter the other, to find the strength to listen to the other."
People speak of "celebrating diversity": the many cultures, religions, sexual orientations, languages, physical abilities, learning styles, ages, genders, income levels, social roles, and other differences that make humanity an endlessly fascinating array. These differences are well worth celebrating, yet in a world where tribalism often leads to prejudice, hatred, and violence, our celebration needs to be coupled with courage. "If we embrace the promise of diversity, of creative conflict, and of 'losing' in order to 'win,' " writes Parker Palmer in The Courage to Teach, "we still face one final fear — the fear that a live encounter with otherness will challenge or even compel us to change our lives. This is not paranoia: the world is really out to get us! Otherness, taken seriously, always invites transformation, calling us not only to new facts and theories and values but also to new ways of living our lives. . . ."
The book and film reviews, book excerpts, spiritual practices, articles, blogs, e-courses, quotes, and more that you will find in the pages of this topic help you build this level of courage, along with understanding, hospitality, and empathy.
The staff at the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley point out that appreciation of diversity is "a prosocial skill, like empathy or forgiveness, that can be developed over a lifetime with intentionality, knowledge, and practice. In diverse societies, cultivating our ability to forge relationships across differences can actually increase our well-being." We trust that this topic will help you hone an essential set of skills that brings well-being — personal and societal — in its train.