I was born and raised in Gary, IN. In the eyes of many, it was seen as the murder capitol of the nation but to us, it was home. My friends and their families held weddings and other celebrations at their respective “halls” — Serbian, Hungarian, Greek, Polish, Croatian, Irish, Czech, Russian, etc. Many of their grandparents spoke little or no English; they’d come to America to make a better life for themselves. My grandpa came over from Ireland at the age of three; grandma and her family came from Sweden when she was young.
So here I am, many years later, working in the inner city, where two-thirds of my rentals are located. Diversity is alive and well here:
This is a group of Sons of Silence motorcylce guys on race weekend. They’ve gathered here, just around the corner from one of my rentals. Across the street, a lively yard sale is in progress.
And a couple blocks away, it’s a busy Saturday at the local barbershop:
The sign on the building says “Walkins welcome.” Yes, there’s some mistrust between the black, white and Hispanic folks in my neighborhood but actually, they all yearn for the same things: safer streets, better schools and a brighter economic situation for them and their families. I do my best to promote acceptance and understanding but sometimes it’s tough.
Growing up in Gary, I believed every town was like my town. We all did, right? I learned differently when I left for Purdue. However, the diverse cultural/ethnic mix I grew up with enriched me as a person and — perhaps — prepared me for this career I love. Embracing the diversity in ourselves and other people can only serve to broaden our perspective and free us of sterotypical thinking.
Gotta love it, right?