November 16th is the United Nations’ International Day of Tolerance. Tolerance is the willingness to allow the existence of opinions or beliefs that one does not necessarily adhere to.
Posts are beginning to pop up on Facebook, reviving that old seasonal favorite. How do we greet people during the months of November and December?
Many of my Facebook friends are Christian, so they are lamenting the requirement of some employers forbidding employees from using “Merry Christmas” to greet customers. I do believe that employers are trying to be inclusive of the great diversity of customers who come through their doors.
Sometimes in being tolerant of others, we can be intolerant of what may be considered the norm. Requiring one to forgo the celebration of his or her beliefs to avoid offending another person is also intolerance. We need to understand that all people deserve the right to celebrate what makes them unique. However, we do need to make sure people feel as comfortable as possible.
I, myself, will be using “Happy Holidays” to be inclusive in order to create an atmosphere of welcome. I may slip into “Merry Christmas” out of habit or to respond to someone else’s Christmas greeting. However, my goal is to recognize that everyone has a perspective and that perspective may be different from mine. Each person has to decide what is right for himself or herself. Say Merry Christmas!, say Happy Holiday, or Kwanzaa, or Hanukkah. Just be tolerant of where a person is coming from if he or she doesn’t respond in kind.
I was thinking about my own family and how the dynamic is changing as the world around me is evolving. I grew up in a white Protestant family. Yet as time progresses, so is the family. The family is now embracing members who are mixed race, gay and Muslim. Not everyone can accept these differences. However, for those who can, one must consider how we can be tolerant of those in our family, yet be less tolerant of those who are not.
I wish there was a special eyeglass I could wear to see how others view the world and even perceive me. Wouldn’t that be revealing? Fortunately such a device does not exist, and maybe I don’t want to know what others think of me.
I welcome people to share in the comments section below, in a tolerant way (get the theme?), how they feel about the subject of tolerance and how one may want to be treated.
For more information on this topic, check out the following books from our collection.
Carolan, Joanna F. Little World: A Book About Tolerance. [n.p.]: Banana Patch Press, 2001
Cross, Elsie Y. et al. The Promise of Diversity: Over 40 Voices Discuss Strategies for Eliminating Discrimination in Organizations. New York: Irwin Professional Publishing, 1994.
Johnson, Michelle T. The Diversity Code: Unlock the Secrets to Making Differences Work in the Real World. New York: AMACOM, 2011.
Happy Tolerance Day!