When I do “Diversity Training” I always tell my “Kool Aid Story.” Now before I share the story with you, I have to tell you a little about myself, to make the story more impactful and insightful.
I was raised in Compton, California, when Compton was a predominantly Black neighborhood, a few Latinos, but mostly Black. I went to an all Black School, church and so on. The only interaction I had with any other ethnicity was a White aunt I had for a short time.
When the family traveled we traveled to other family members or friends homes, so the conversations, food and environment was mostly the same, no surprises. Fried chicken, macaroni, rice and cornbread was the norm at most houses, and yes the usually drink was Kool Aid, grape or red.
Fast forward twenty years, while living in Germany, I was sitting in my office and talking with a colleague who was sharing with me about her upcoming trip back home to Circleville, Ohio, for the Pumpkin Fair. The smile on her face could have lit-up a whole city, as she talked about pumpkin burgers, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin pies and pumpkin donuts.
And “Mr. Moreland, you have to see the Miss Pumpkin Show.” As I looked at the excitement on her face, on the inside of me, I couldn’t help but think “White people do some strange things.” How could they be so excited over pumpkins? As far as I could remember, I only thought about pumpkins during Halloween, but here was a city that dedicated a whole week to pumpkins.
After all the talk about pumpkins, I made her promise to bring me back some pumpkin cookies. And I must admit they were very good. But what changed my perspective was what she said to me next. As serious and plain as she could be, she said but I really can’t wait to eat some of my grandfather’s food and drink some KOOL AID!!!
Hold up! Stop the presses, she couldn’t be talking about the little ten cent bags of Kool Aid that my family put a pound of sugar in, could she?. I said, “Wait a minute, you drink Kool Aid?” With a puzzled look on her face, she said “I sure do.”
I begin to quiz her on her Kool Aidology, what flavors mixed the best, how much sugar do you use, a long line of questions that she was able to pass.
That day in that office, I learned so much about us as humans. No matter what your skin complexion is, we have many different experiences, BUT we have a whole lot of common experiences as well. From that day forward, we were able to have meaningful and deeper conversations. She was able to ask me questions that she had been curious about, and I was able to do the same.
I have travelled the world, so for me the world has become a lot smaller, because I have learned that at our core we are very much the same. Want the same things, hope and desire the same outcomes. In every people group you have some wacko’s, but for the most part, we are very much the same.
Be willing to learn from others and you too will see that every one drinks KOOL AID…………………..
Thanks Kimberly, for teaching me, that every one drinks KOOL AID!!!
Think Better, Live Better
Dr. Will is an author, speaker and leadership consultant....