Know your neighbor; embrace their culture

By: Carol Feineman, News Messenger editor
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After 20-plus years in this business, my No. 1 lesson is that everyone is worth knowing. Everyone has fascinating stories to tell, if we only make time to listen. It could be your next-door neighbor. It could be the individual bagging your groceries. It could be your mailman. Or it could be family members who work at a local eating establishment. That’s why we’re running a photo page this week of Harmanjot Singh’s recent wedding in Ludhiana, India. Singh works at his family-owned Subway at 350 G St., with his mother, Sarabjit Kaur; father, Gaganjit Singh; brother, Ravjot Singh; and sister-in-law Kulwinder Kaul. We also ran a photo page almost two years ago when Ravjot got married in Jalandhar, India. The comments we heard from readers after that photo page ran were all positive. And Ravjot said this week he also received great feedback from customers. His Subway customers wanted to know more about the unique wedding traditions. “It made me feel good that they asked questions because it’s a different culture,” Ravjot said. “They never saw it before.” Everyone has interesting stories to tell. And while most of us in Lincoln do not go around sharing our lives, maybe we should. That would create understanding and tolerance in, if not the world, then at least our community. Two weeks ago, downtown business staff found a swastika and the initials WP (standing for white power, most likely) painted on their outside door. “It didn’t make us feel good,” said the manager, who wanted the business to remain anonymous. The employees didn’t want to encourage other taggers from creating new graffiti. “We don’t think we were targeted. Other people probably found swastikas but didn’t report it,” the downtown business employee said. “The choice of graffiti would be offensive to many people. We were shocked that’s what they chose.” Ninety-two years ago, the Nazi party turned the swastika into a symbol promoting the death of anyone who wasn’t an Aryan. I don’t understand why, in April 2012, an individual or individuals in Lincoln anonymously painted the symbol on a building. Haven’t we learned our history lesson by now? Living a life of hate — or ignorance at the very least — never turns out well. I remember a column I wrote exactly a year ago about the senseless murder of two Sikhs in Elk Grove. Police determined it was a hate crime because the two elderly Elk Grove residents, wearing turbans, were gunned down during their neighborhood walk. I quoted an unnamed Lincoln business person, formerly from India, in that column who was hesitant to wear his turban here. Fortunately, most Lincoln residents I’ve talked to accept people for who they are. The different cultures should be celebrated among all residents. That is why I invited Kathy (News Messenger columnist) and Terry Dorsey and Jack (News Messenger guest photographer) and Bettye Wartlieb to my family’s Passover Seder. While I did not think they would agree, the Dorseys and the Wartliebs accepted the invitation without any hesitation. And that made me feel, at least indirectly, better about my belief system. They were excited, in fact, to learn about my culture. That’s what we need more of in today’s world full of wars, hate crimes and senseless brutality. I encourage every Lincoln resident to make a conscious effort to ask your neighbors and merchants about their traditions and beliefs. They will probably welcome the opportunity to talk about their heritage. And we’ll benefit too because there’s a wealth of beautiful customs here in Lincoln. While we can’t change the world, Lincoln residents can perhaps be a model for others to emulate. And hopefully, in the very near future, all Lincoln residents will feel welcome here and not hesitate to wear a head covering that marks a different culture. We can learn something from everybody. It’s an exciting world and we can experience that by listening to our neighbors on every Lincoln block.