For the past three years I have been a member of the Board of Directors for our local State Universities Annuitants Association. One of the ways that we earn money for scholarships that we provide is by volunteering at the University Bookstore located in Southern Illinois University’s Student Center during the first week of the spring and fall semester.
Although our Campus is extremely beautiful, as readers of my blogs will note by the numerous photos that I have posted through the years, the beauty of the diversity of our students is unparalleled.
As a colleague and I greeted the new and returning students entering the Bookstore I was reminded of my beginnings at SIU thirty-eight years ago.
Although I was born in Chicago, Illinois my family moved back to Southern Illinois when I was five years old. My education and social experience throughout Grade School and High School was with people who came from similar experiences as my own. Also they were monochromatic schools.
On my first day of employment at SIU my foreman, an older African American gentleman who smoked the most aromatic cigars came to my building and introduced himself to me. I discovered that he had been instrumental in my being hired at the University at the request of a mutual friend of ours. This man became my mentor and remarked on one occasion that, “I was his son…I just would not call him Daddy!”
Shortly after I began my career I became a crew supervisor and on my crew were several international students. Students from Africa, Malaysia, Turkey, Japan, China, and Iran were among the crews members. As we talked…the richness of their experiences and the complexities of their cultures was an education that I could not get enough of.
I soon realized how wonderfully diverse and complex the family of humanity is! I was humbled that I had been asked to be the supervisor of such intelligent and cultured people.
As I greeted the smiling students this past Thursday I reflected on what a privilege that I had been afforded to be a participating member in a community of nations so close to my home.
When we fail to understand…or forget the family we all belong to I wonder if perhaps we have lost the entire purpose for our existence.
One of my student crew from Cameroon…now so long ago
…asked me if I knew why so many international students wanted to work with me? I told him that I did not…and he remarked that I had no prejudice and that everyone felt at ease and comfortable with me. I have spent my time since trying to be worthy of a compliment that I knew then and am sure now…that I was not worthy of