Today, I had the unique experience of volunteering for Cooking Matters, a national organization that works with adults, kids and families to educate them on how to buy groceries and cook healthy meals on low-income budgets. While cutting boards, knives, bowls, and the like were set up around the table, I surveyed the people walking in to the class: it was a melting pot of Hispanics, Caucasian, and African American adults, eagerly ready to learn. I imagine where they’ve come from and how they were brought up, and appreciate all the unique stories this must entail and I realize this is one of my favorite things about living in an urban setting: the culture.
To me, culture can be seen as an education. Growing up in a primarily Caucasian community, I was never subject to large majorities of other ethnic groups. With every group come different religious practices, family traditions, and ways of life. Each and every group has something to share with others, and also something to learn from others, and what better place to learn from each other than in a city? Where building hug each other close on each side, and people brush shoulders as they walk down the sidewalks heading to work, the city is a vibrant place of interaction, a place where you can always find someone to listen to your story. During my time here at Wartburg West so far, I’ve been able to rub shoulders with a Hispanic woman, who has three kids and is a single working mother, as we sliced apples for apple walnut salad. I’ve shared librarian jokes with an older African American woman, who was a librarian and is now a grandmother, as we sautéed the stir-fry for our cooking group. Living in a place with a multitude of different types of people brings unique opportunities that you may not find elsewhere. I am just beginning to learn about the different types of people that live around me, and I feel the only best is yet to come.
And what is the meaning of all this? While diverseness can seem intimidating, it is in reality enriching. The stereotypical fears of danger and lack of safety in the city slowly dissipates into daily adventures of listening to stories and observing different cultural norms. I find kindness in the most unsuspecting strangers, and a new sense of safety in this new home. I am extremely pleased to call this my home for the semester, and hopefully, perhaps, a permanent home in the future.