The United States, rich and powerful country that it is and dedicated in principle to a true democracy where everyone has the right to enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, is not without major, deep flaws. Still it is a highly sought-after destination whether by talented, well-educated people who want to enjoy more opportunities to achieve success within their chosen field of work or by the poor who are attempting to satisfy basic needs of personal safety and the chance to earn a decent living. The goal to do well in this land of opportunity motivates people to work hard and achieve success, sometimes beyond their wildest dreams. Most of the residents of the US are the descendants of immigrants or they may be immigrants themselves. Their energy, their drive, their different perspectives enrich and broaden our culture and improve our overall well-being. Still US residents of non-white races or of foreign backgrounds continue to encounter prejudice and sometimes frightening personal attacks.
What are some steps we can take on a personal level to help create a more tolerant society? An important first step is to promote tolerance and respect for others in our children. Intolerance arises from a fear of the unknown so raising children to feel secure and loved is crucial to their ability to accept others of different backgrounds. We want to educate ourselves and teach our children about different cultures to develop an appreciation for the rich diversity of our world population. A great way to develop an understanding about other people’s challenges in life is through volunteering. There we come face to face with the need of those who are struggling in any number of ways, whether it be financially, emotionally, or perhaps educationally.
Probably the most important lesson we can give is to model respect and acceptance of others in our own conduct. How do we treat the people we encounter in our daily lives, the wait staff, the checkout clerk, the delivery person, or the handicapped individual trying to make their way down a busy path in their wheelchair? “Tolerance is about opening your heart to accept others as they are even if they don’t look like you, act like you, have the same values and beliefs as you, and yes, even when they upset and annoy you. Tolerance is about treating everyone humanely with respect and dignity.” (National Partnership to End Interpersonal Violence Across the Lifespan).