GUEST AUTHOR: KRISTINE MCDOWELL
Ever since I was a little girl, loving all different kinds of people was deeply instilled in me. My little world was very diverse and unique. My brother was born with special needs, and that alone created a lot of opportunity to become friends with many special needs kids and peers. God used my family and community dynamics to imbed within my heart a deep passion for people and the diverse beauty within each family, community, and country. In a world that keeps trying to press us into carbon copies or shove us into stereotypes, diversity is everywhere. There is not one person that is exactly like another. People are the pinnacle of God’s creation, His most amazing handiwork. His vast and infinite creativity is seen in each and every life, culture, and heritage. This reality is often lost and muddied as the world continually battles diversity with conformity. Our different cultures, upbringings, and the media can often shape who we believe is important and what is beautiful. Different theologies and doctrines have strayed time and time again from the truth,putting people and God Himself into a one-size-fits-all box. This sad pattern of conformity has been happening since the fall of Adam. Sin has a nasty way of tainting and destroying that which God made good. Diversity in people is God-made goodness and it is worth celebrating. He gave us diverse ethnicities, cultures, personalities, families, communities, abilities, and experiences. There is so much mystery and marvel within one person, let alone each little pocket and place on our earth. It’s incredible.
It is so important that TRUTH is talked about, celebrated, and taught within our homes and community circles. I am very passionate about celebrating people and teaching my children the value of diversity. I really believe if we don’t talk about different kinds of people, cultures, and social justice issues in an age-appropriate way and in light of a Biblical worldview, then our kids will form ideas based on their limited experiences and the world’s philosophies. They will come to accept bullying, prejudices, and hate crimes as inevitable (or possibly even acceptable) instead of avoidable. Celebrating diversity teaches our kids the importance of showing kindness and compassion, listening and learning, and loving others with different perspectives. It builds our kids’ confidence by reminding them that each person possesses his or her own unique beauty. It communicates that we are each an essential, important piece in our family and community, and that each life is as equally valuable as the next, regardless of skin color, ability, passions, beliefs, or backgrounds. Celebrating diversity is more than just inserting phrases like “be kind,” “Jesus loves you,” and “God made everyone special” into our conversations with our kids. It is venturing deeper by creating opportunities to teach, discuss, and practice loving all kinds of people, just as they are, so that our families can develop a heart for the world and a hunger to know the Creator behind each masterpiece.
Here are a few simple ways you can begin cultivating diversity with your family:
1. PRAY FOR MORE DIVERSITY WITHIN YOUR COMMUNITY
If you don’t already have a lot of diversity within your family, friends, church, or neighborhood, start praying for God to send a variety of people into your life. We live in a predominantly white, middle-class, conservative community and didn’t see many obvious avenues to mingle and make friends with people very different from us, so we began to pray. It’s been amazing to see how God has expanded our community within the last year. If you have a diverse community as a parent, your kids will too, and experience is one of the most powerful teachers!
2. BE A LEARNER
You may know the famous quote by Albert Einstein, “the more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know.” Don’t get so set in your own way of thinking that you cannot meet a situation, a person, a culture, or a belief with compassion. You may still disagree at the end of the day, but never stop being a humble learner. LISTEN to those who are different than you and seek to put your own lens on life down and look through theirs for a moment. With all that is happening in our world with racism, refugees, wars, poverty, and beyond, it is so important to listen and learn FIRST before speaking, debating, or posting on social media. The way you speak about people you disagree with or don’t understand will rub off on those closest to you! Especially kids, they watch and listen to everything!
3. MAKE YOUR HOME A SAFE PLACE FOR ALL KINDS OF PEOPLE
Our house is a gathering place for all of the neighborhood kids and many others. We want our home to be a safe, loving place for everyone who walks in, so we made it a rule: “Everyone must feel safe and loved.” We don’t tolerate bullying, name calling, or prejudices. We just don’t. If kids or adults insist on playing or talking in ways that are disrespectful or unkind, they are asked to take it somewhere else. This boundary line helps us emphasize the importance of kindness, respect, and healthy conflict resolution.
4. CREATE SPACES TO HELP YOUR FAMILY DISCOVER DIVERSITY
Create spaces to help your family DISCOVER diversity.
We have a whole corner in our playroom dedicated to celebrating diversity. This corner includes a myriad of children’s books intended to help our whole family learn more about other cultures and facilitate discussions that possibly would never happen otherwise. It has toys and items from different places around the world that my sister has brought back on her missionary journeys. We also desired to have way to represent different ethnic groups within our country and around the world, especially since our pocket of the U.S. is not very diverse. I researched diverse dolls for our girls, but ultimately, due to budget and having a little boy join the bunch, I decided to create peg dolls for my children. I made two different collections. One was an American set, reflecting several diverse ethnicities, but in more generic clothing. The other was an Around-the-World set that represented different cultures across the globe. After several months of researching, ordering books, and making peg dolls, my diversity corner for the kids was ready just in time for Christmas. It has been really fun being intentional about growing in this area as a whole family. We read books and play with the dolls often. The peg dolls have been a great tool. They leave lots of room for the imagination and can be played with using Lego’s, blocks, doll houses, and other stable toys. The boys and girls in our neighborhood ages 2-11 have enjoyed playing with the dolls. It’s quite fun to see such a simple toy be enjoyed in SO many ways. We use the dolls with our kids to talk about all kinds of issues and people in age-appropriate ways while having lots of fun at the same time.
The process of developing a diversity corner and my desire to see others celebrate the beauty of diversity in their own lives resulted in the creation of a project called Radiant Ruth. Radiant Ruth is a place of ideas, tools, and avenues to cultivate a love for all people. It can be found on Facebook and Instagram, and features book lists, products, companies, blogs, ideas and more to celebrate diversity in your home and in your community. Through Radiant Ruth, I will also be launching hand-crafted peg doll collections designed to cultivate diversity. I really desire to encourage and enable others as I continue to learn and live out my passion for diversity.
PURCHASE KRISTINE'S HANDCRAFTED RADIANT RUTH DOLLS HERE:
Kristine is a beautiful Jesus-lover, and celebrator of diversity who is sharing her passion project Radiant Ruth with the world. Kristine is wife to Pastor Jason McDowell and mom to three gorgeous kiddos.