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Neighbors: Same, Similar, Different, Unique

Neighbors: Same & Different
Neighbors: Same & Different

Marisol Muñoz-Kiehne, PhD

Current events seemingly everywhere show situation after situation in which ignorance, prejudice, violence, and misuse of power enacted by people painfully hurt and harm human and non-human beings throughout our tolerant and troubled home planet.

How to respond in ways that are conducive to healing, that constructively contribute to health and harmony? How to keep our minds, hearts and hands open, despite feeling fear and frustration? How to preserve hope in humanity?

Here’re some ideas that hopefully help:

• As human beings we are more alike than we are otherwise
• There are notable similarities and differences among groups of people defined by cultural distinctions like race, ethnicity, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation and social class
• Each and every person is ‘one of a kind’

These statements, though appearing to be mutually exclusive, all ring true and meaningful, don’t they? As stated by anthropologist and social theorist Clyde Kluckhohn,“every human is like all other humans, some other humans, and no other human.”

Our commonalities and idiosyncrasies as people make living in community a complex challenge, and give us reasons to rise to the challenge.

Same and Similar:

Genetically we are more alike than different from each other. The natural shared aspects of human experience are transcultural, metacultural. As earthlings, as people, and as neighbors, we share space, structures, and stuff with others with whom we may or may not share background history or backstage stories. We can draw from these points of convergence and divergence when relaxing in our backyards, needing a back rub, or looking for someone to ‘have our back’…

The family that moved into ‘our’ block/town/state/country is in some respects like all other families; as is yours, and mine. Even if they may look, sound, or act differently, we are related as members or the same species, residents of planet Earth. The question is how to relate with each other in fair, respectful, considerate, civil ways, cultivating our common ground.

Different and Unique:

Differences exist between and within cultures and subcultures. The new neighbors are in some respects like others with their shared heritage, as we are similar to those whose roots we share. It may serve us to open the doors and windows of our minds and homes to exchange with our neighbors the sights, sounds, and smells from ‘back home’…

Each of us is as unique as our fingerprints. Every one of our neighbors is in some ways like no other, with distinctive features that characterize their personhood, irrespective of racial identity, cultural boundaries and national borders. Let’s watch out, for generalizations can be inaccurate and unfair!

If we greet each other so that the best aspects of our human nature, socio-cultural treasures and trappings, and individual being meet, our neighborhoods and planet may eventually be ‘home sweet home’ for everyone.

Care about cross-cultural community-building? Contact Oakmont Standing for Justice club leaders Kathie Weston ( or Robin Jurs ( to unite with us in education, dialogue and civic action.


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