Lessons From Nature

For the past month or so, I have been actively seeking out and enjoying the stunning wildflowers that are in bloom throughout Southwestern Ohio. I have always enjoyed hiking and nature, but this year, I have made it a point to learn more about native wildflowers.

This Spring, I have spent hours walking along trails and creeks, throughout six different counties, learning about each wildflower that I happen to encounter. I have taken hundreds of photos and am slowly gaining more knowledge about these beautiful miracles that grow along the highway, in pastures and meadows, as well as in deep, cool woodlands.

Overall, I have to say that the whole experience encourages me to reflect on diversity in general. There are so many different wildflowers just in my little corner of the world. The diversity I have been experiencing with wildflowers doesn’t even take into account the wide variety of trees, butterflies, insects, fish, birds, and mammals that are occupying the same land. It is truly awe-inspiring to take time and reflect on the incredibly diverse nature world that surrounds us.

While I take in the rich diversity of the wildflowers I have encountered, I struggle to understand how anyone can believe that there is just one way to do anything. So much bigotry, prejudice, and hate are based on the idea that there is one, absolute, and right way to exist in the world. Only one way to look. Only one way to love. Only one way to worship. Only one way to believe. Only one way to live.

If you will humor me, I would like to share what I have learned from the official wildflower of Ohio, called the trillium. I have always known how to identify trillium because they are a unique, three-leaved plant with a single white flower found in the woods where I grew up. At least, that is what I have always thought. What I have learned recently, is that there are eight different types of trillium, just in Ohio. While some have white flowers, other have red flowers. Some are tall and some are short. Some have flowers that are upright, some are drooping. Some have solid leaves and some have speckles. Yet despite their differences, they are all trillium. (Click here to read more and see pictures of each kind).

The Brazilian author Paulo Coelho said, “In a forest of a hundred thousand trees, no two leaves are alike. And no two journeys along the same path are alike.” This sums up the belief I have, to the very core of my being, that diversity enriches our world and our lives. I believe that the same diversity that is reflected all around us in the natural world is a model or road map for what the human world should look like, as well. Despite our differences, we are all human.


P.S. Hate and violence have been in the national and international headlines, seemingly on a daily basis. I encourage you to read some blogs from our archives, such as After Darkness, There Will Be Light and Look For The Helpers.

A New Beginning

Although I have written in the past and have been a frequent public speaker, I am nervous to start this blogging adventure. Putting my thoughts and ideas out in the public domain is a bit intimidating. Before we go any farther, know that I do not like to think of myself as an expert. I am not perfect. I have flaws and limitations like everyone else. I have more to learn. However, I believe I have a meaningful story to share.

I grew up in a very homogeneous suburban community near Cincinnati, Ohio. Like most Midwesterners, I was raised to be nice and I was really nice to everyone. But it wasn’t until my college years that I realized being nice didn’t cut it. It wasn’t until I left my hometown that I slowly and methodically discovered that there was a whole world that I had been taught not to see – a world full of beautiful differences. I also realized that these newly discovered cultural differences required more knowledge and skills to navigate than just me being nice.

This dawning awareness about culture and diversity eventually became the focal point of my undergraduate work. I spent a lot of time studying psychology, family dynamics, American history, white privilege, sexuality, racism, homophobia, civil rights, and other topics related to diversity. Outside the classroom, I formed life-long friendships that crossed color, ethnicity, class, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, and geography.

I continued to learn as much as I could about differences, specifically the intersection of cultural awareness and family life. I reflected on my own upbringing and kept asking the question, “How can families raise children who are culturally aware and respectful of differences?” I was interested in finding a way to prevent my own lack of awareness from being repeated. Instead of noticing a world full of differences for the first time at the age of 20, why not help children and families see these differences all along?

My personal journey has been incredibly rewarding. A lot of moments have been life changing… sort of like Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, going from seeing the world in black, white, and hues of gray to seeing the world full of rich and brilliant colors. It has also been challenging and difficult at times. I have had to learn to do a lot of listening and questioning. I have had to learn that it’s okay to be uncomfortable. And I have had to admit that I was wrong. A lot.

I would like to share my journey with you. I will share stories and observations, as well as encourage you to read some things, watch some videos, and do some self-reflection. I plan to ask you a lot of questions along the way. Will you please join me?