As a kid, I loved a picture book called People, by Peter Speier.Â It was a celebration of all of the different people of the world, and I particularly remember the last two illustrations.
The second-to-last page asked something like, “Wouldn’t the world be boring if we were all the same?”Â It showed a picture ofÂ a city street: all the buildings looked exactly alike, all the people looked and dressed exactly alike, and all the cars were identical.Â It looked utilitarian and drab and absolutely terrifying in its sameness.
Then the last page — again, I’m paraphrasing from memory — said, “Isn’t it wonderful that we are all different?”Â And it showed a city street, with all sorts of people of different races dressed in various ways and doing all kinds of differentÂ things, and it was fabulous: vivid and colorful and utterly fascinating.
On a day like today, when we honor the late Martin Luther King, Jr., I like remembering that book.Â It was one of my first lessons in the beauty of diversity (not that the nine-year-old me would have used that word).Â And yet every lesson in diversity is worthless if it doesn’t acknowledge the common humanity that we all share.
Dr. King challenged us not to ossify into our own little circles of people who look exactly like us.Â Â He had faith that human nature could be better than that, that we could learn to recognize our shared humanity.Â It was a remarkable kind of faith, actually, now that I think about it.Â Â And we are all the better because he kept on believing.
Image from Holy Cards For Your Inspiration