Saturday, April 21, 2007

Cultural Richness and Gratitude

Saturday afternoon, the sun slowly receding behind white clouds after a day of brilliant sunshine. Our Tibetan neighbors are having a gathering/party at their home. Prayer flags wave over their yard as the kids play basketball in the driveway.

Suddenly, the basketballs cease their bouncing as traditional Tibetan drumming, dancing and singing commences right in their driveway, some of the crowd seated in the open two-car garage. We can just make out the dancing figures through the trees, their house being about one-hundred yards from ours.

Depending on the wind, we can often smell the traditional sweet grass being burned during the prayer services often held outdoors in this quite suburban setting.

With a considerable number of resettled Tibetans in our area, this type of scene is quite normal and very welcome, bringing diversity (that overly used American word) and a sense of something other than bland, white middle-class America. Similarly, where my brother and his family live in New Jersey, Asian Americans and East Indian Americans abound, bringing the quality of food, intellectual promise, and culture to a whole new level.

Lacking such cultural richness in my own life, I am moved and curious at how these families manage to maintain their unique cultures amidst the tumult and relative crassness of American life. Their tenacity in holding onto their cultural roots and practices seems so much stronger than the relative assimilation of my Eastern European Jewish ancestors. While I acknowledge that I could have tried to retain my family's ancient culture myself, by the time I was old enough to consider doing so, I was already two generations removed from any such practice. And so it goes. I am always impressed when young people from other cultures choose to participate and continue traditional practices and languages even as they adapt to life in America. Their lives are only enriched by such an effort, and the rewards are myriad, I'm certain.

Having such a sweet celebration take place so close to our home is a reminder that we live in a society of rich multiplicity, and for that I express my appreciation and gratitude.
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