We live in an increasingly global village, with people of various faiths, ethnicities, cultures, religions, sexualities, political beliefs, and other various backgrounds. We all exist together in our neighborhoods, communities, and even in our virtual worlds online. But at the same time, we live in challenging times with war in Europe, hate crimes, gun violence, and polarization in our country.
Let us work and grow together on a course of tolerance, peace, and understanding.
If we are to thrive and solve serious problems together, we need to respect and communicate well with one another and even appreciate and celebrate one another. We can realize that everyone deserves respect and dignity, no matter their background, beliefs, or experiences.
How can we build a positive culture together with tolerance, peace and understanding in our communities and even online?
We talked with local Ann Arbor community members, educators, and neighbors about what they would recommend for youth and adults alike.
And, here’s the list of top five invitations to promote peace, love, and understanding–along with related local outlets for youth and adults.
Listen to people’s experiences without judgment, and give people the benefit of the doubt. Find the truth in at least one idea that they have, and focus on that with them. Celebrate and share what we have in common and emphasize those aspects. This comes in part from realizing each person contains their own dignity and self-worth and therefore we should not belittle in any way. Many times a person’s beliefs result from their experiences. We need to understand that different experiences create different beliefs and be accepting of that.
Here is one local organization that promotes peace and understanding:
Peace Neighborhood Center “has piloted and maintained programs for children, families, and individuals to promote self-sufficiency and positive community involvement.” Their services include advocacy, emergency assistance, after-school programs, summer day camps, college and career preparation, individual and family counseling, and family enrichment.
2.) Celebrate All.
Celebrate different cultures and ethnicities, and appreciate our differences. We can develop empathy and patience. It is wonderful to be proud of your ethnicity, race, nationality, religion, sexuality –whatever you feel defines your identity. But we don’t have to think it is “supreme” and that everyone should have the same identities. Everyone has much to contribute to society. Every person has a story to share that we can learn from.
Here is another local organization that promotes tolerance and celebrates diversity:
The Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice is just one example of a great organization in Ann Arbor that centers on racial and economic justice. As they exclaim: “We wage love and practice nonviolence in all its forms through education, community organizing, advocacy, and direct action.”
3.) Lift Up Each Other.
Lift people up instead of putting them down.This quote says it all, “Strong people don’t put others down…They lift them up.”—Michael P. Watson.
Emphasizing someone’s talents, wisdom, intelligence, or art will actually make you feel better. Creative, playful, and humorous energies elicit and promote more acceptance and good vibes.
The Neutral Zone of Ann Arbor promotes positive concepts such as leadership, pride, justice, love, equity, and acceptance. Their slogan is “Where Teens Lead, Create and Innovate.”
4.) Appreciate and Invite.
Forcing or threatening people is not an effective or sustainable educational tool. Don’t look at people as an instrument to be exploited or to do something for you. Each individual is to be appreciated simply in their existence and to simply be.
Instead, think about inviting someone to partake in an activity or encourage someone to consider a different perspective or way of looking at something in a nonaggressive, more invitational manner. Learn to accept apologies and ask for forgiveness, including the forgiveness of oneself. Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.
The Dispute Resolution Center has the slogan, “Repairing harm, restoring communities..” This organization also states that it offers “affordable, constructive, restorative and halting approaches to conflict resolution for the residents of Washtenaw and Livingston counties.”
Another local place that helps youth lead safe, healthy, and productive lives and protects against trauma, exploitation, and even trafficking is Ozone House.
Ozone House “Ozone House is a community-based, nonprofit agency that helps young people lead safe, healthy, and productive lives through intensive intervention and prevention services.”
5.) Savor Differences and Commonalities.
Savor the beauty of people of different skin tones, body types, ages, names, and ways of dressing—everything that makes that person a beautiful and unique individual. All the differences are to be celebrated and cherished, as well as our commonality. It is like enjoying all the different flowers of nature in bloom or the various bird species that nature has given to us.
Every person is a unique work of art with their own unique stories to tell. Also, emphasize the commonalities that we all share as being part of the human race. We are all more alike than we are different. Most people just want to live their lives freely and harmoniously with others. We all want to have a decent job for our basic needs, freedom, peace, fulfillment, and to be a respected part of a community.
Many religious organizations also promote tolerance, acceptance, and understanding toward all and also consistently reach out to others in need such as homeless families at Alpha House, the poor, or refugees.
Almost all religions have some version of loving thy neighbor as themselves. Here are just a few that do important work of peace and helping others in the name of each and every person deserving dignity and respect::
The organization describes itself: “Originally established by the Jewish Federation of Washtenaw County to assist the growing number of refugee families in Ann Arbor from the former Soviet Republics, JFS has since grown into an organization providing programs and services ranging from older adult caregiving to immigrant resettlement and career services. As an agency in Washtenaw County that serves a diverse, international population, the mission of Jewish Family Services is to create solutions, promote dignity and inspire humanity.
First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Ann Arbor In their own words, “Great teachers of many faiths have stressed the worth and dignity of the human spirit, the relatedness of all peoples, and the importance of ethical behavior. These are core values for the UU religious movement. While our religious roots are Judeo-Christian, today’s Unitarian Universalists encompass a large spectrum of faith perspectives including: Atheist/Agnostic, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Humanist, Jewish, Muslim, Pagan, and more.”
This Catholic parish’s patron saint is dedicated to peace:
“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy…”–Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi
Donna Marie Iadipaolo is a writer, journalist, and State of Michigan certified teacher, since 1990. She has written for national publications like The Village Voice, Ear Magazine of New Music, Insurance & Technology, and TheStreet.
She is now writing locally for many publications, including Current Magazine, Ann Arbor Family, and the Ann Arbor Independent. Her undergraduate degree is from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where she graduated with an honors bachelor’s degree and three teacher certificate majors: mathematics, social sciences, English. She also earned three graduate degrees in Master of Science, Master of Arts, and Education Specialist Degree.