By Jessie Funk

Growing up in Utah, my classmates and I didn’t experience a whole lot of diversity. I remember being in fourth grade and there was one, yes, ONE person in the entire school who didn’t look like, or believe the same things, as the rest of us. His name was Jonas and he was in my class. I liked him immediately. He was so funny, so smart and so very kind.

A couple boys in our class obviously had no education on the subjects of diversity or cultural difference. At lunch one day, they started asking Jonas really ignorant questions about the color of his skin and why his family didn’t go to the same kind of church as everyone else we knew. These boys weren’t trying to be mean but it certainly came across that way and it made me incredibly uncomfortable. Jonas was too wise to take offense (this wasn’t his first rodeo); he confidently answered their questions. Jonas owned who he was. He stood tall, rolled his shoulders back, assertively asked for what he wanted and for the respect he was worthy of. It was difficult for me because I didn’t want them to hurt this kind kid’s feelings, but I learned a great lesson about confidence. He set such a positive example for me. We stayed good friends throughout the rest of elementary school.

You see, Jonas was the hero of his own story. He gave those boys the gift of enlightenment. We all have the opportunity to close our mouths, open our eyes and expand our minds in order to see more and understand more. Don’t ever forget that there are ALWAYS two sides to every story and it’s ALWAYS possible that you might not be “right.” Accepting and celebrating differences in others can be just the thing you need to shift your paradigm and take your awesomeness to the next level.

Plain and simple, be kind to everyone and know that every human being is someone’s precious child. There is something you can learn from EVERYONE.

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