Growing up, I didn’t see many faces unlike mine. I lived in a small, rural town, and I was related to probably half the population. I literally looked a lot like most everyone I saw on a daily basis. Now, don’t get me wrong, it was a lovely place to grow up, but exposure to skin tones of a darker shade than my pale hue, and ways of living other than my own just didn’t happen very often. While my parents were very open minded and we traveled frequently, nothing can replace proximity when it comes to appreciating diversity.
Diversity. That oft-used buzz word that we use but don’t often truly consider. We praise its ideals, but don’t often enough intentionally practice its principles. Or, we misunderstand its intentions, and refuse to embrace it at all. Why does it matter? Do children really need it to survive and thrive? If one lives in a fairly isolated community, how can it even be sought after without uprooting the family, or making sweeping changes to one’s day-to-day routine?
Reflecting back on my childhood, there was one vital element that ensured I received at least a minimum exposure to “otherness.” And yet, it communicated uniqueness in ways that revealed similarities, rather than differences. People and places I otherwise wouldn’t have seen, came streaming right into my living room, where I sat (too close) to the TV.
Sesame Street. Its familiar theme song and well-loved characters were a staple of my childhood, and it’s only now as a parent that I realize the impact it had on my young mind. This isn’t news, of course. Many articles have been written which demonstrate the profound effect Sesame Street has had on young minds. (Like this one.) And while I’m sure it also helped me learn my ABCs and 123s and thank yous and please, it also sparked within me a curiosity about the outside world. I wanted to see and know more Gordons and Susans and Marias and Luis(s?, I have no idea how to format this.)
My own children are now able to enjoy the obvious and not-so-obvious benefits that Sesame Street brings, and I’m especially excited by Sesame Street’s recent inclusion of Julia, a muppet who represents neurodiversity (she has autism spectrum disorder). As a mother of a child with ASD, it’s a beautiful way to celebrate our community.
For the past several years, Intrust Bank Arena (in Wichita, KS), has presented my family with the opportunity to enjoy the Sesame Street crew in person at a live performance. And guess what? I want your family to enjoy it, too! I’ve got four tickets to give away to “Elmo Makes Music,” Jan. 7-8. Entry is easy. Just comment on this post (or on the Facebook post) and let me know what lessons Sesame Street taught you as a child. I’ll draw one winner at random by end of day Thursday, Jan. 5. Good luck!