Saturday, July 22, 2006

Respecting Diversity

The author of today’s posting is Pam Johnson. Pam has been Community General's chief financial officer since 2001. Before that she was a part of the Community General family, serving as hospital auditor and consultant.

Among her many projects, Pam prepared the first business plan for the Laboratory Alliance of CNY. She also helped CGH and physicians with business planning in the 1990s. Pam’s letter contains personal comments she shared with the Multicultural Awareness Council (MAC) at its first meeting last Tuesday.

You will hear more about the work of the MAC in coming months. It is an important group that will help make sure CGH welcomes diversity and respects all individuals.

Thank you, Pam, for sharing your personal story.
- TQ

I have been very fortunate to have grown up in a family that valued diversity.

Both sets of grandparents married outside their ethnic background and both married a person of another religion.

My parents were active in the civil rights movement in the 50s and 60s. I had a childhood of door-to-door voter registration drives, protest marches, and rallies. I grew up Catholic during the heady days of Vatican II when the doors flew open and respect for and acceptance of other religions was the focus.

I grew up around people of many colors and backgrounds who had a dream of a better world and were willing to work hard to make it happen.

My elementary school was Percy Hughes when it was over 50% kids with disabilities. Kids without a disability were the minority and the “odd ones”. When we did those nuclear bomb drills in grade school, each kid who could walk had a kid who could not as a buddy to make sure they got safely into the halls where I guess someone thought we would be safe! For me, multi-lingual meant Braille and sign language, both of which we were expected to be reasonable proficient at.

I grew up down the street from the Vincent Apartments where the Peace Corps volunteers were being trained and we would watch them in awe, practicing languages and commuting on their bicycles. They were my idols.

I also grew up understanding that all this made some people afraid.

My parents’ neighbors would not let their kids play with me in “protest” over my parents having people of color at our house. My father was badly beat up one night for his efforts in registering people to vote.

I went to Roosevelt Junior High and Central Tech in the late 60s when race relations deteriorated into riots which closed the schools on a regular basis. It was there that I participated in an early prototype of the Dialogue Circles now run by the Inter-religious Council.

I have chosen to live for the past 30 years in my city neighborhood specifically because of the diversity it offers. I have neighbors of all colors, religions, sexual orientations, and backgrounds.

As I have grown older, I have seen that intolerance is not just a problem just for white people or straight people but for all of us.

I have also seen that the best way to battle intolerance is with one-to-one interactions. I have seen people who I had thought of as bigots accept and befriend new neighbors who were people of color or gays or lesbians. It is hard to hate someone who you chat with over lunch in the cafeteria or while taking a break from mowing the lawn.

And so I am very excited that the MAC is starting here at CGH. I speak for all of administration when I say we are looking forward to working with you to further awareness and understanding among staff, volunteers and patients. Little things that we do to start conversations can have rippling effects throughout CGH and our whole community.

Thank you for volunteering to help foster and celebrate our diversity.

Pam Johnson
VP Financial Services & CFO

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