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UBC Reports | Vol. 47 | No. 20 | Dec. 13, 2001

Making a difference during the holidays

Open your eyes, ears and hearts, urges principal

by Prof. Grant Ingram

When I was a child, gathering around the holiday dinner table was a cherished way for my family to connect with each other.

The conversation and feelings flowed easily as we shared both food and thoughts. It's a special tradition at any time of the year, people sharing food around a table full of light, family and friends.

Two weeks ago, the residents of St. John's College gathered together one evening to share their celebrations in a Festival of Lights.

They shared Diwali, Hanukkah, Advent, Persian and Japanese New Year traditions, in recognition that people from all corners of the globe have ways of remembering, in the darkest of times, that the light will return.

The past three months have been particularly dark ones. We have witnessed considerable loss of life through violence.

People from many different countries and cultures have been affected by these events -- some directly, through personal loss, others indirectly through the immediate diffusion of images.

All of us were affected in some way. Events in one place touch others in distant lands.

I believe that the UBC community can learn from these events so as to help diminish the possibility of conflicts in future.

At St. John's College we have graduate students and visiting scholars from 35 different countries residing in the college.

They live together, study together and sit around the dinner table each evening. They share their views, their culture, their values, and their celebrations.

It's not always easy for them to understand and accept differences, but they engage in dialogue with others because they want to try.

Like them, we can all make the effort to open our minds to understand people from different backgrounds than our own. And when we do so, we so often find that our differences are not as dramatic as we first thought.

Words may often fail us when we try to come to terms with the events of this fall, but perhaps it is words that can take us forward into the new year, a future where diversity is not merely tolerated, but celebrated -- a future where light will indeed triumph over darkness.

If we can learn from tragedy by being ready to initiate open dialogue, if we can listen, open our eyes, ears and hearts to others, we can make a difference.

It's never been more important than right now.

During the holiday season, take the time to understand the world around you and the rich tapestry of diverse cultures that we live in.

We are each proud of our own culture and traditions.

Understanding how people from different areas of the world and diverse religions mark this time of the year by bringing light to brighten the short dark days is one step towards a world of greater acceptance.

We need to listen to one another and celebrate the value of diversity amongst us.

Grant Ingram is principal of St. John's College. The graduate residential college houses an international community of some 170 scholars.


Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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