Time brings change; that’s a fact of life. Accompany anyone on a trip to the town they grew up in and you will hear just that fact.

“I don’t remember that building.”

“When I was younger this road was only two lanes.”

“That housing development used to be just a large field.”

“Remember when that store used to be on that corner? It was where I spent most of my Saturdays.”

Time changes the towns we live in. Some towns grow and urbanize, some dwindle until they are mere impressions on our collective memory. Both of these kinds of changes bring pain, uncertainty, and fear.

Along with these ebbs and flows of population growth the Carolinas are experiencing another kind of growth, a growth in diversity. The Carolinas have seen a steady and irrefutable growth in their immigrant populations. While much of this growth is in the more urban centers, even rural areas are encountering higher numbers of immigrants thanks to the robust agricultural sector in our states.

For many who grew up here, such a dramatic change can be a little unnerving. You see people who don’t look like you and who may speak with an unusual accent. They also speak languages you can’t understand, and the the culture you once thought everyone lived by is not the only culture around anymore.

It’s understandable that in such situations one could feel uneasiness, if not fear, at the unknown. Things are changing. You didn’t ask for it; you didn’t expect it, and you really don’t understand it. Fear of the unknown is understandable.

The good news? This isn’t the way it has to be. While rapid diversification does bring challenges to our cities and institutions, it also brings great promise and hope. Our new neighbors have a lot to offer our communities if we’re just willing to stop, listen, and appreciate the beauty of their cultures, experiences, and languages.

Too often our cultures, while they are beautiful, can blind us to new possibilities. Through intercultural relationships we can open ourselves up to new realities we could have never dreamed of. We can dream dreams we never knew existed. We can see the world through differently colored lenses that expose a beauty and a vibrancy we never could have imagined.

So may we not see this new diversity only as a challenge, but also as one glorious, hope-filled opportunity to see and experience the world together and anew.

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