Celebrate Diversity

Our little family...

One of the most significant memories I have happened when I was on a mission trip to Amsterdam in 2003. During one of our morning group sessions, we were challenged to write down the names of the countries of all the people we had talked to throughout the week. Like many large cities, Amsterdam is swarming with people from all around the world.

After we went around the circle, the total number that the team had talked to far exceeded 100 countries. It was an inspiring revelation to me in that moment that God was the God of all nations.

Fast forward 8 years. Here I am, married with two kids, reminiscing about a time where I felt God showed me something important about his character: He celebrates diversity.

How does that fit into my situation right now? Diversity matters to our family.

Most know (or at least can see from our picture) that my wife and I comes from different ethnic backgrounds. I am half-Dutch, half-Spanish; she is half-African-American, half-Filipino. Thus, our children fit perfectly as spokespeople for the United Colors of Benetton. In this way, we will naturally have to address diversity in our family. We know that one day our children will ask questions, so we want to embrace that even right now.

Here are five ways that we celebrate diversity with our children right now:

1. Be around different people – We want to make it a natural thing that our kids are around different people from different backgrounds. I am thankful that our campus fellowship in college laid the foundation for this so well. It was during those formative years that we learned to participate in and celebrate different cultures.

2. Never talk in absolutes – Eliminate saying things like, “All people from ____ are like this.” In an indirect way, this criticizes and denigrates. We don’t like absolutes in general, so about about we exclude them from this area as well.

3. Get rid of that negative speak – There are certain characteristics (race, physical features, etc.) that people literally have no chance of changing. We want to teach our kids that belittling people is contrary to what our family stands for.

4. Try new things – We love to do new things in general, so I’m grateful this is a natural part of our family functions. We want to participate in new activities, try new foods, and go new places. Our hope is that this will spark curiosity in our children, and let them see first hand that the world is a really big place.

5. Look forward to adoption – Jen and I are certain that the Lord has placed adoption on our hearts as a way to expand our family. As we begin to talk about the subject with our kids in the future, we want them to know that he/she will be a celebrated addition to our family.

In no ways are we/I perfect in this area. Even as the father of a mixed family, I am still learning how to lead in this area. I would love to hear your thoughts. Let’s learn together!

How have you embraced and celebrated diversity in your own life?

61 Comments

  • Moe

    February 18, 2011

    All those things I said about people in the South were in good fun man. I’m sorry!

    Living in the melting pot of NYC, if I were even a bit critical about any culture, I would be shooting myself in the foot. I’m glad we’ve gone this far in America. I’m glad we, the people, elected an African American president and that we have a Latino Supreme Court Judge in Sotomayor and that diversity is encouraged in this country (for the most part).

    I’m also glad that we have the Valencia’s stories to read and enjoy. You have a beautiful family Dustin.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      February 18, 2011

      Thanks Moe. Me too (on what you said). Every time I visit relatives in NY or Cali that is one of the things always strikes me. I love it.

      Reply
  • Jim F

    February 18, 2011

    I love the post and I do try to teach my children diversity much the same way as your 5. Thanks for sharing and pushing us to understand that diversity matters.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      February 18, 2011

      You’re welcome Jim. Always appreciate your comments.

      Reply
  • Ben

    February 18, 2011

    Beautiful family indeed, love this photo. I can totally relate with the diversified family, we got ‘Da Mixed Plate’ going on.

    Thankfully it’s much easier to do all of these points you mentioned, I can’t imagine what the time was like with my parents, or worse with my grandparents.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      February 18, 2011

      …and especially living in the south. It saddens me to hear about some of the atrocities that went on in the county we live in even 20 years ago. Thanks, ben.

      Reply
  • Michelle

    February 18, 2011

    We at one point were looking to adopt from Ethiopia. It didn’t pan out and we don’t feel led to try again at this point. But at the time, we went to all kinds of training and read books, just like you would before having a baby. I worried about how I would fit this colored child into our very white family. And maybe that is why it did not pan out. The other day my daughter had to go to her nieces birthday party. (This is my husband’s brothers family) and something odd happened. My daughter told me that her cousin did not want a Tiara doll because she was black. That just made me really mad. Also made me realize of some of the stuff we would have had to deal with if we had adopted and in some way, it was a relief that we did not. On the other hand, I had the opportunity to talk to my kids about how that was wrong; how God had created us all and loves us all the same and how we are not better than any other person. Interestingly enough, the conversation of Martin Luther King Jr came into play as well later on that week.

    We definitely aren’t perfect in this area either. I know I have some preconceived ideas from growing up in the “ghetto” about certain people groups. Yet, I think God is good in that He is breaking those things and they aren’t being passed on to my kids. Great post Dustin and your family is beautiful!

    Reply
    • Dustin

      February 18, 2011

      Michelle, as always thanks for sharing your experiences. I think you highlighted a really important point: we’re going to have opportunities (big or small) to address things like this…. and with our children we can tell them the truth of what God’s word says.

      Reply
  • Jay Cookingham

    February 18, 2011

    Great post! We We should celebrate the diversity around us…after all, God created all of us and said it was good!

    As for us, my wife is German/Scottish and I’m a Klingon…but it works!

    Reply
    • Dustin

      February 18, 2011

      Klingon… you’re hilarious, Jay.

      Reply
  • Jason Vana

    February 18, 2011

    I personally enjoy learning about and experiencing other cultures, and it’s something I want to instill in my future family someday. In my ministry, though, we are getting a nicer mix of different ethnic backgrounds. The school where my ministry is located is predominantly a white school – I think the diversity level here is like almost 90% white, 10% any other ethnic group combined, but my ministry reaches out to those students from other countries and ethnic groups. I love it.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      February 19, 2011

      Jason, that is awesome about your ministry. Continue to keep us posted for sure!

      Reply
  • Jonathan Jacob

    February 18, 2011

    Love this post man! I think it’s so important to embrace diversity and to realize that people come from all different backgrounds. I can say that this is something that I try to do. My friends come from all different backgrounds and different race groups…and I absolutely love that. I think it’s so easy to stick with people that are culturally similar to you…but that’s the easy way out. God has created us all beautifully with various talents and it would be a shame not to embrace that!

    Reply
    • Dustin

      February 19, 2011

      Jon, that’s great. I felt like that was my experience in college as well – being around people of different backgrounds allowed me to experience and embrace so many new things.

      Reply
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  • John

    February 18, 2011

    I love the fact that this world is so diverse. There are so many cultures and customs and people groups and it fascinates me. It gives me a glimpse of God’s creativity. My wife and I are racially different as well and I am very much looking forward to having a “mixed” family when we have kids!

    Reply
    • Dustin

      February 19, 2011

      God’s creativity… for sure! Thanks for sharing, John. Believe me-you and your wife will have some cute kids!

      Reply
  • Kevin

    February 18, 2011

    Adoption! I’m all for it! Especially since I was adopted when I was 6 months old! God has blessed me SO AMAZINGLY through my adoption! Mostly in that now I have an eternal relationship with HIM! WOW! Hard to fathom why me? Why was I chosen? Only through the grace and mercy of the Holy Spirit!!!! :) I can give you the hook up in Colombia! Either at the orphanage where I was adopted or at an orphanage run by someone that I went to school with in Colombia! I visited the orphanage where I was adopted in 2009 and it was AMAZING! There were so many VERY CUTE kids there that needed a home! I’ll be praying that the Lord will continue to guide you and Jen in regards to adoption!!!!

    Reply
    • Ben

      February 18, 2011

      Kevin,

      What’s the organization that works with Columbia?

      Reply
      • Dustin

        February 19, 2011

        Ben, if Kev doesn’t respond I can give you the info via e-mail.

        Reply
    • Dustin

      February 19, 2011

      Kevin, always appreciate your input. We need to have lunch again sometime soon so we can talk about this. Thanks for sharing part of your story with us!

      Reply
  • Justin

    February 18, 2011

    Spot on, Dustin! Absolutes kill the soul of the deliverer and the recipient. Being around different people can be difficult if you live in a non-diverse area, but being intentional about getting out of the comfort zone and placing yourself in diverse locations is a must!

    Reply
    • Dustin

      February 19, 2011

      Justin, really love your words here (about the absolutes and about being intentional). Thanks for sharing!

      Reply
      • Donald Borsch Jr

        February 19, 2011

        D,

        Yeah, I must agree…there is something quite powerful about Justin’s use of the word “intentional”. This is a great comment to your post.

        Reply
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  • kristinherdy

    February 18, 2011

    I really like this post. The kingdom of Heaven will not be divided into burrows or districts or segregated by skin color or ethnicity.

    We’re practicing for Heaven right here, right now, so, why are our churches and families and friendships so often divided along those lines as well?

    Reply
  • Chris

    February 18, 2011

    Good stuff Dustin, growing up in a small town in Montana it was white everywhere until high school and then expanded more in college. However most everything was white centered. One of the things I love most about living here in Portland is the enormous amount of cultures their are. It is also the reason my wife and I allow exchange students from different countries to live with us so our children can learn and understand what life is like from someone else’s point of view and experience.
    Part of my job includes teaching others about diversity in the work place and how we support and encourage it. You have a beautiful family.
    Thanks for talking about this, it’s something we must always continue to do.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      February 19, 2011

      Chris, that is really cool. I hadn’t thought about hosting exchange students. What a great way to be intentional about learning about someone else’s culture firsthand. Also.. thanks for the kind words!

      Reply
  • bill (cycleguy)

    February 19, 2011

    Tried to get here yesterday Dustin but something was messed up with the connection. You have a beautiful family and applaud your all’s efforts to make and have a family that glorifies and honors God in/with its diversity. Sorry I am late to this party.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      February 19, 2011

      hey no worries, Bill. We had server issues first thing yesterday morning (must have happened right after I hit publish). Thanks for your comments!

      Reply
  • Tony Alicea

    February 19, 2011

    Diversity has been the theme of my life bro. I’m a full-blooded New Yorican (Puerto Rican born in New York) but my parents got divorced and remarried a military man.

    I’ve lived in Japan, Mississippi and Florida. I’ve moved to tons of different cities and no group of people were alike. I’ve had to learn to adapt and assimilate into many different kinds of cultures.

    Within the past year I’ve been to Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Israel and Brazil. I absolutely love the diversity of culture and lifestyles. I feel like God has prepared me for this. I have a grace to immediately connect and understand people of various walks of life.

    I feel it’s a big deal. I think heaven is going to be pretty diverse! :)

    On a side note, your title immediately made me think of The Office episode called “Diversity Day” where Michael had everyone put a note on their forehead of different nationalities and they had to guess who was who. All I hear is Michael saying “would you like some googie googie?”…followed by a slap to the face!

    Reply
    • Keri

      February 19, 2011

      Tony…that episode of The Office is absolutely one of my favorites.

      And, can I say ditto to a whole bunch of the reasons you listed? I guess I’ll just go write them myself…oh bother!

      Reply
    • Dustin

      February 19, 2011

      Heaven most certainly will be diverse–thanks for your thoughts. You have a unique perspective in all this… I appreciate what you shared.

      And, yes- that episode is so classic. So classic.

      Reply
  • Brandon

    February 19, 2011

    True…

    Reply
    • Dustin

      February 19, 2011

      Thanks for commenting, Brandon – what did you agree with?

      Reply
  • Keri

    February 19, 2011

    Dustin, dude, we’re like on the same wavelength or something. One of friends recently posted a link on FB about how this year’s class of college freshmen is the most diverse ever, with most not able to check any of the one ethnicities listed on the application. I was wondering how I could work that link into a post, but you obviously beat me to it. And, you also beat me to the Modern Fam post. You’re up 2-nil. :(

    So, how do I embrace and celebrate diversity in my own life? Well, our family is a picture of diversity as well. My background, like my friend Lane likes, to say is Jawaiianese-yeah, I’m Hawaiian/Chinese/Japanese/English/Swedish. So, definitely a mixed plate as we like to say in Hawaii. My hubby is basically Irish/English/American Mutt. I don’t know what that makes our kids, except for pretty darn cute.

    Having lived and traveled throughout the world, I can say that I totally heart diversity. I think it makes me a better person to attempt to understand and empathize with someone from a different place or background.

    Somewhere along the lines I have also acquired the strange knack for understanding accents clearly. The only one I ever had difficulty with was Creole. EEK!

    We try to keep our kids aware and engaged in their cultural backgrounds, but it isn’t always easy. I have to say my favorite way is through food from the different regions. And, folklore/traditions.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      February 19, 2011

      I’m with you on the food. I’m thankful my grandmother still cooks homemade tamales, and my mother in law almost always serves up Filipino food with dinner. I want that to be a regular thing with our kids.

      And no worries about the 2-nil score. I’m sure you’ll catch up soon. :)

      Reply
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  • Nathan

    February 19, 2011

    You’ve got one beautiful family bro. We don’t have hardly any diversity in my family or my wife’s family, we’re like white on rice, so when these topics come up, I try to listen intently to what others are saying. So thanks for posting this!

    Reply
    • Dustin

      February 19, 2011

      Absolutely. Thanks for stopping by, Nathan!

      Reply
  • Donald Borsch Jr

    February 19, 2011

    D,

    So late to this party, I apologize.

    Beautiful photo of your bride and your daughters, by the way!

    I flinch whenever I hear the word “diversity”, simply because I was once involved in political punditry, and “diversity” was a code word for getting ready to slam someone for being “intolerant”. So whenever I hear the word “diversity”, I flash back to numerous confrontations with, shall we say, people who do not think like I do.

    I was raised in a small town in rural Michigan. I learned all I needed or wanted to learn about different cultures, be they attached to “American” or not, and can only say that all stereotypes are rooted in truth.

    Good post, Dustin, as always.

    Reply
    • Donald Borsch Jr

      February 19, 2011

      Sorry, I messed up a comment:

      >>I learned all I needed or wanted to learn about different cultures, be they attached to “American” or not, once I joined the military and was exposed to diversity to the max, and can only say that all stereotypes are rooted in truth.

      There. That’s better.

      Reply
      • Dustin

        February 20, 2011

        As always I value your contributions, D. That is an interesting take on how hearing that word transports you back when it was used as a sort of buzzword in military circles.

        Reply
  • Lizzie

    February 19, 2011

    I love that picture, you have a beautiful family!

    I am adopted as are my two sisters, and I’m so glad I am! I love my family. Please let me know if you ever have any questions/concerns about adoption… I’d love to help if I can, or hook you up with my parents so they could give you some advice.

    My little sister is 100% Mexican while the rest of us are whiter than white bread, so we’ve had to deal with some diversity in our family, as well. We also live in a community that is very, very prejudiced against Mexicans. My sis came home from 2nd grade one day and said to my mom, “I wish I looked like you.” After that, my mom and dad started to encourage her as often as they could about her skin color. They’d say things like, “You have such beautiful skin! I wish I had skin like yours! I’d have to tan for a month to get skin like that!”

    It seemed to work. My sister (15 now) boasts about her skin color. She’s always rubbing it in our faces about how pale we are and how tan she is. I still think sometimes she feels out of place-and there’s nothing we can really do to change that-but I know she also feels loved and accepted, and that’s the important thing.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      February 21, 2011

      Lizzie, I enjoyed reading your comment. Thanks for sharing. I think that is great how your family encouraged your sister and celebrated her… even in the little things.

      Reply
  • Zee

    February 20, 2011

    haha, first gotta say that i love the picture :) you guys look amazing together :D

    re: diversity: one time, back in ’06, i had a privilege to work as an interpreter (and whatever else needed to be done) with Extreme Nazarene when they were in Ukraine – we had over 150 people, from 9 countries, speaking 6 languages. it was AWESOME! diversity rules – would be boring if we were all the same.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      February 21, 2011

      wow, that would have been an amazing experience. I love hearing about things like that…. (would have loved to be there also!)

      Reply
  • Alex Humphrey

    February 20, 2011

    This is something I struggle in.

    Not in that I dislike people from other cultures. To be honest, they are usually some of the most intersting people I meet.

    I guess I struggle with it because I do not find myself in a position to meet people from different backgrounds often. I hope to change that through my church (which it looks like I am very close to picking a church home), and my new job (blogging/writing and soon hopefully public speaking).

    I guess I just do not really know how to meet people of different cultures? It is easy to find people like me. I just do the things I like to do and they show up.

    You said in point 1 “I am thankful that our campus fellowship in college laid the foundation for this so well. It was during those formative years that we learned to participate in and celebrate different cultures.”

    What activities do you do with your family to put them in those situations?

    Reply
    • Dustin

      February 21, 2011

      Alex, I appreciate what you’ve said. I think putting yourself in situations is important, but like you said… can also be a difficult thing as well. With our kids, even though they are young, we’ve done little things like have different ethnicities of dolls- allowed us to show beauty in different ways. When they get older, I want them to enjoy different types of foods (or at least appreciate them) — taking them to a greek restaurant or a middle eastern restaurant. I know these may seem small steps, but I think in little ways, they may set the foundation for when they ask questions about different cultures and people groups.

      Reply
      • Alex Humphrey

        February 21, 2011

        Thank you! That will help me a lot as I ponder these things. I am blessed with a fiancee who has had significantly more experience with diversity than me. With your input and her leading I think this is an area that I can understand more fully throughout my life!

        Reply
        • Dustin

          February 21, 2011

          Sure thing, Alex. By no means am I an expert in this area… like you mentioned, naturally my wife is oftentimes the initiator in this area simply because of her background, experiences, etc.

          Reply
  • jay sauser

    February 20, 2011

    Benetton reference – that was funny!

    Reply
  • Bryan Thompson

    February 21, 2011

    Dustin, you have a beautiful family, bro! You’re very blessed! What an amazing testament you guys are to the power of love! Thanks for sharing, my friend.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      February 21, 2011

      No problem – and thanks for the kind words!

      Reply
  • ThatGuyKC

    February 21, 2011

    Although my wife and I are about as Anglo-Saxon as they come, we live in a very diverse community. We encourage to understand people who are different and help them see through other people’s eyes. Great post!

    Reply
    • Dustin

      February 21, 2011

      Those are some wise words, KC. Interestingly enough, we live in an area that really isn’t that diverse right now (it’s growing, getting there, but definitely not something like the heart of Atlanta). Our hope is that with our next move, we will intentionally place our family in an area like yours.

      Reply
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