In looking at this picture, you might not even think that there is much diversity in this group. They are all wearing beyond comfortable jeans and footwear. They are sporting the same t-shirt with various pullovers for comfort. They are sporting sunglasses and hats for shade…except for the kids who haven’t learned the virtues of protecting skin and eyes yet. They have all come together to support a common cause and to play a common game. (Well, common game in an uncommon location; tundra golf…not for the faint of heart.) You wouldn’t think that so many different cultures could be represented in such a small group, but without going into their personal backgrounds, I will just tell you that they represent everything.
On this day of reflection I like to think that America was brilliant at being a model for diversity and inclusiveness. How that changed mimics the changes we see on a local level. Learning about different cultures, with the result of respecting them, opens the door for open minds. Take a lesson from indigenous cultures who for millennia were inclusive of all people no matter their beliefs, skin tone, or gender identification and/or definition. Although I now believe that our ability to pass on values of diversity acceptance has become more difficult, I still believe that our ability to truly appreciate and celebrate diverse cultures stems from the generosity of those who choose to share their values and their dreams with the group as a whole.
In 1910 an International Conference of Working Women was held in Copenhagen. Clara Zetkin, leader of the Women’s Office for the Social Democratic Party in Germany, proposed that every year in each country there should be a celebration on the same day – a Women’s Day – to press for their demands. Thus International Women’s Day was born.
In my strong, matriarchal society of Unangan women in Unalaska, I have had many stellar examples upon which to base my life attitude. My mother, Gert Svarny, continues the values and ethics that her mother Alice Hope instilled in her. Even my younger sister and my own daughters have taught me a thing or two about strength and character. I am lucky to have a public reference about my grandmother to show my children and grandchildren how devoted she was to her community, by the love shown her at her death. In his book Moments Rightly Placed, author Ray Hudson writes: Then on the afternoon of December 4, 1966, Alice Hope died in Washington state. The next day a service for this deeply loved woman was held at Unalaska, and when her body arrived five days later, Anfesia (Shapsnikoff) assisted Father Ishmael Gromoff in yet another service. Anfesia stayed all night with her departed friend, in the company of the Hope children and grandchildren and friends, until the service at the church on December 11th. Anfesia noted in her diary, “had Liturgy with Mrs. Hope’s body; after funeral service walked her up all the way.” Carrying the coffin the length of the village from the church to the graveyard was an act of uncommon devotion.
Who is the woman, or women, in your life who have guided you on your path? Gentlemen…this is a question for you also.
When do we become aware that we are creatures of comfort? I am certain it is well into our twenties or thirties. When we are young, we take for granted the running water in our homes, our own bed, food on the table, and the freedom to run and play outside. As we leave home for a higher education, we even take that for granted, perhaps not realizing the sacrifices others make for us in terms of financial burdens. When comfort, or the lack thereof, really comes into focus is when we are responsible for our own comfort. In those early years of fending for ourselves, we give ourselves comforts as we can afford them. Gradually, we become more adept at providing for ourselves, and we sometimes go over board in the comfort area, once again becoming slightly immune to our fortune of having comforts.
And then we come full circle when we realize that our creature comforts really aren’t that numberous. We need shelter and food and water. Whatever else we choose to bring into our lives, really, becomes the finer comforts that we have learned to appreciate over time. A bouquet of flowers. Silver to grace the luncheon buffet. Crystal, given a semblance of warmth with the glow of candlelight. The greatest comfort is knowing that the finest comfort is not these things, but the dear friends and family that complete the picture.