“Growing up in New York City” is a statement that millions around the world aspire to say. Some critics may oppose this statement and claim that New Yorkers are rude, aggressive, always in a rush, and generally have no manners. To me, growing up in New York City means going to public school from kindergarten to 12th grade encountering many peoples of different cultures. It meant being surrounded by people who had similar backgrounds and hardships as my family and I, but were from different ethnic groups: Hispanics and the Latinx community, Asians, West-Indians, Africans, Arabs, and other ethnic groups, religious groups, and communities. Being raised in a city where it’s common to see diversity on every street, subway station, playground, grocery store, and so on has been a key in understanding that although we have our similarities, as a city, we also have our differences which should be understood and respected.
With that being said, characteristics that have stuck with me from youth to the present day are being a compassionate, respectful, and open-minded individual. Especially in a place like New York City, these qualities are essential in developing trusting relationships among people you come across and having these qualities reciprocated towards you. One thing that my parents highly valued was respect; they taught my brother and I that to be a decent and well-regarded individual, you must show respect to people of all ages, race, ethnic group, religious background, sexual orientation, disabilities, etc.; it’s a value that is also derived from my religion, Islam, and one that is truly significant in being a well-dignified individual.
As I grew older, these qualities translated to understanding people’s life stories, beliefs, and opinions. You will inevitably come across people that you will clash heads with and not necessarily agree with on every matter, whether that be something like rules to a board game or a social, political, and/or economic issue like abortion being legal. I additionally learned that it’s necessary to have the ability to consider other perspectives and be empathetic towards other people and their beliefs, even when you disagree with them or their beliefs don’t relate with yours. Being an “expert” on respecting and understanding the circumstances of why an individual comes to the terms of their beliefs and/or opinion, has been much more valuable in the long run and than meaningless confrontation. Being open-minded in this day and age is essential for people in society to feel heard and understood. We will never evolve as a society if we do not put forth efforts to at least understand one another. Conflicts will never be resolved and peace will not be found if as a society we live in constant agony of the “other side” and fail to understand their opposing beliefs.