Staying Positive in times of Negative World Affairs - Blending Ethnic Diversity like a Tea Master
15th March 2019, a day described by Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand Prime Minister, as "the darkest day in New Zealand". The shocking news was released by afternoon, informing the world about a hideous mass shooting that took place in the mosques of Christchurch, New Zealand. People of New Zealand and around the world were deeply saddened by this senseless act of terrorism and the tragic loss of many precious lives.
On this day, before I learned about this tragic incident, I was in a local college of New Zealand working as a part time relief teacher. I walked in to my last class of the day at 2.20 pm. The last period on a Friday afternoon has a reputation for students getting restless, with a tendency to act up. So, I made sure that I remained energized and reminded myself to stay positive.
I was quite new to this college. As I greeted the students, I sensed a look of curiosity mixed with some uncertainties, and even a hint of teenage defiance, on the faces of the Year 13 students. I saw in front of me an interesting mix of students from various ethnic groups. In a class of predominantly white students of European descent, I saw quite a number of Maori students, Pacific Islander students and Asian students. I exuded my positive and happy energy as I marked the class attendance, making sure to smile lots and greeted each one of them out loud. I could sense the students relaxing and letting their guard down towards this new Asian teacher who has just entered into their classroom space.
As a Chinese Singaporean who has lived in New Zealand since December 2008, I have been very blessed as I have not experienced any overt racial discrimination and have been made to feel welcomed and accepted by most people of my new community. However, there has always been a part of me that feels insecure due to my skin color. I often feel the need to justify that who I am on the inside is not determined by the color of my skin. In this beautiful country, where most of the people have beautiful souls that are open minded and accepting of others, I have at times observed racial prejudice in various forms happening to people around me. This, however, does not define the value system of the majority of the people, who are kind, loving and accepting.
As I went round the class interacting with each student, I showed an active interest in their topics of research, and made myself available to discuss their ideas with them. This opened up a channel of communication and from what was an original discussion of an academic nature, some of the students started asking me questions about my culture, my life in New Zealand and even made lovely comments about my make up! In turn, I asked them to tell me about their culture.
This short one hour interaction felt amazing. Ethnic diversity in the class was acknowledged and appreciated. We all felt connected and accepted as a human race. What I have learned is that when we make an effort to connect with people of other ethnic groups, we start to see past each other's skin color and remove any form of preconceived prejudice that we may have. We start to connect with the souls within and the realization that we are all fundamentally the same starts to sink in.
I have come to the realization that when we are critical, judgmental, and non-accepting of others, we do not experience joy. But when we embrace ethnic diversity and accept each other, we experience joy and good feelings. The good feelings is our inner beings' way of telling us that what we are doing is in alignment with what the source of our universe wants for us.
Being a tea lover, I can relate this to good tea blends which require the skills of a master tea blender. When we put in love and thoughtfulness to skillfully blend different ingredients together, the resulting tea blend is heavenly! In the same way, when we invest love and communication into a cultural melting pot, the resulting society is delightful and harmonious.
I am challenging myself to go out there each day with an open heart and connect with someone of a different culture. We can all contribute and make a difference towards creating a world where love overcomes hatred. Let us love each other, live every moment and awaken our mind and spirit. To all the beautiful souls out there of all skin colors, I'm sending you love, peace and joy.