Unity out of Diversity


I have taught at several universities in California and Oklahoma over the last 18 years. Many times, I teach Cultural Diversity. Of course, there are trends, like women in the workplace or hot topics like the SONY Executive e-mails that made racist comments, but still, we continue to tackle the same issues over and over.

Many people don’t know that the term ” University” means  “Unity out of Diversity.” (Uni= one Versity= groupings). Diversity has the similar word base, but in this case, the “Di” stands for division or separation. So in technical terms, diversity is actually about looking at groups separately. It’s good to start with word origins because we get confused sometimes when discussing terms that have an emotional charge associated with them.  When you look at how the dictionary defines Diversity, you end up with more of a normative definition – how we have changed the term to represent it for our culture and needs today.

Diversity: the quality or state of having many different forms, types, ideas, etc.

: the state of having people who are different races or who have different cultures in a group or organization

When I work with businesses on developing a Diversity program or initiative, there’s almost a panic – what if we aren’t doing this right or worse, what if we leave something out? I guess I come from a totally different (dare I say “diverse?”) point of view. Having been raised in six countries gives me some insight to the United States. In Saudi Arabia and the Middle East, you mainly see one type of people – Arabs. Now, granted, there are ex-pat communities, but they tend to live separately and not really join the mainstream public. In Pakistan, it’s homogeneous – everyone looked the same. The only other group I saw was the Chinese and even then it was because they owned the Chinese restaurant we were dining at.

So, coming to the United States was a it of a culture shock (to say the least). There were different people everywhere. It didn’t help that we came to New York City first. Talk about diverse! Moving to California was no different – lots of people from all different backgrounds. In fact, it was very easy for us to find a tight knit Muslim community and settle in nicely. There were many here that spoke the language as well, so it was a small piece of home.

I think as Americans, we don’t stop to admire what this country offers us – a vast variety of groups that don’t have to give up their unique identity, but are able to function as a whole, My family and I never felt any pressure to be Americanized or to take on something we were not comfortable with. Now, that doesn’t mean that we didn’t face discrimination. Moving to the US was the first time I felt discriminated against, but it wasn’t for what you might think. I was in the fifth grade and no one would play with me. No one. When I finally got the courage up after almost two months of having no friends, to ask a girl who seemed remotely kind (=she didn’t say “eew, get away”) , she acted like she didn’t want to tell me. I then started crying and said that I had no friends. She was embarrassed, but was kind enough to tell me it was because I smelled bad. She even told me that maybe I should wear deodorant. When you cook with curry at home, you have to put the spices into hot oil so they develop their flavor. With long hair, that absorbs the aromas and some oil along with it, I am sure I smelled like what we cooked – and still do at times, but take a shower and wear some good deodorant now!

Trying to teach diversity from an immigrant’s eyes has a value. I think that I bring a little appreciation for what we have in the United States. In fact, on our money, it says “E Pluribus Unum”- out of many, one. I believe that is the strongest way to address diversity and the importance Americans place on the value of differing opinions, backgrounds and cultures.


Careless Trust

Yesterday, I was doing training for a private company on the merits of Mentoring in the workplace. It seemed like every conversation led back to building trust. If you cannot trust your employer or co-workers, you will not have a productive workplace. In fact, it would be quite dysfunctional. In a study done by the founders of Airbnb (an online Craigslist type of site for renting out your home to complete strangers who are traveling), they found that in 1972, 46% of people said that others were generally trustworthy. Today, that number is down to 32%, resulting in a lower trust of everyone – from identity theft, to fraud, to organizational ethical situations like Enron and Sony Executive emails.

There’s no doubt then that employees don’t want to share personal information with others and make deeper connections. But that’s where things get lost. We complain about how management doesn’t understand my needs or lament about lack of communication. The complaining doesn’t stop there either. It trickles down into a lack of trust for your spouse or family relationships. Let’s face it: there is a strong correlation between personal growth and trust.

I love Focus on the Family’s article on building trust in a marriage. I think those rules also apply to the workplace. They said that the Hebrew word Batach (baw-takh’) means TRUST. Not just that, but it has more meanings: bold, careless, confident, secure. You can see the application in Psalm 91:2

I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

When the psalmist uses Trust here, he is speaking of being careless. This is literally without a care! When was the last time you were without a care or worry? Seems incredible, but that is what true trust means- when we can be at peace in our relationship and not worry that someone is going to talk behind our back or break a confidence at work. When we can trust our spouse to go on a business trip and not worry about them breaking  their vow of marriage, when we can trust that our children are really where they say they are with their friends.

I believe there is a formula for building trust. I call it “The Three C’s.”




Credibility – speak the TRUTH. Some take this to mean blurt out what you are really thinking. Please don’t do that. We are called to speak the truth in LOVE (Eph 4:15).

Confidentiality-Keep your mouth shut. So difficult and tempting to share, but that sharing that seems harmless can turn into vicious gossip in about 20 minutes… And then come back around the office to bite you in the behind

Consistency – I had a boss once who was all over the place. She was sweet one day and sour the next. She would lavishly praise your talent and then tear you up for the same thing. It was stressful to be around her. You never knew what you were going to get from one day to the next. Being consistent means being fair. Give benefit of the doubt. Allow your relationship to flourish by building and encouraging, even while giving constructive criticism.

These are not easy to do, but then anything that’s worthwhile takes time. When you start trying to raise your awareness and practice trusting others, while building trust, you will find that you will become careless… In a good way!

Don’t Look DOWN!

Our daughter learned how to ride her new bicycle yesterday. When you pray for Jesus’s eyes to see, you can’t help but see everything through the glasses He gives you.
My husband did something new with her. He first took the pedals off and had her scoot on the bike. Then he told her to try to scoot and lift off her feet so she could learn to balance the bike. Then, the next day, he put the pedals back on.

In the picture above, he was doing the thing that parents all over the world do, he was holding on and encouraging her to pedal. He kept saying “Don’t  look down, sweetie.”

Here’s where my Jesus glasses came into play. God, the Father, has said that to me before… In fact, I know He says that a lot to me! Just like my daughter, every time I look down or worse, at myself, I get wobbly and lose my balance. When I look up, I find the correct alignment for my life.

The neat thing is that even when I fall down, I’m not devastated because I know my Father is right behind me, cheering me on and encouraging me to look up.

Psalm 34:5 says those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed

When we look around at the world, we see darkness and confusion. In fact, you don’t have to go further than the news to see that.

When you look up to The Lord the Bible promises you His light, His joy and His peace.

Like riding a bike, in life, you’ve got to keep moving forward, keep your balance and look up.

Leap of Faith


It’s not easy to be this guy (see above in the picture)… suspended in mid-air, wondering if he’s going to make it to the other side or if the other side is even more unstable than the one he just left. YET, there’s something compelling about it. Maybe it’s the fact that he did decide to jump in the first place. Then, the reason behind it comes to mind… why did he do it?

We have had choices in life that we’ve had to make. Should I? Shouldn’t I? In fact, today was one of those decision days. Nothing seemed stable for me today. My mind was in a whirl. When those days come, I almost go into a “cocoon mode,” where I want to turn in on myself and not even deal with what is going on around me. Those decisions can just wait, I tell myself. I am not ready to come to make a choice.

In organizations and business, this is the same practice. Business needs change on a daily basis. You might be reading this blog on your iPad or iPhone. The operating system on that device may have recently changed or even the latest version may have come out. Change is inevitable in any situation – work, home, school, life. HOW one deals with these situations is what makes a difference.

Taking a leap of faith is not just a religious term but is something we do on a daily basis. When I googled “Leap of Faith,” the term came up as something the philosopher Kierkegaard came up with. In fact the way he addressed the topic was almost as a leap from one thing to another.  The bottom line for a Christian, however, is what would you leap towards? If it indeed is Faith, what is that Faith placed in? Is it your paycheck? Is it gaining an education? Is it Christ? I am not asking questions in a rhetorical manner. In fact, I will be very honest here. My faith and leap goes to money first, even though on my money it says blatantly “In God We Trust.” Not so much sometimes! I have to pray every morning that my decisions are not based on my desires (for me,  money translates to security – albeit FALSE security), but instead are based upon what God wants me to pursue for His glory. It’s a daily struggle.

When I do happen to take that leap of faith into Christ’s will, however, I find that He always had a better plan in mind for me than what my limited mind could concoct. His plans usually impact others in a better way as well. So when you are faced with decisions to make or changes to contemplate in your life, I pray that you will STOP.

Stop running through scenarios – especially negative ones.

Take a deep breath.

Obedience to God shows our love for Him (1 John 5:2-3)

Pray for God to lead you and for Him to grant you the courage to put the worldly cares aside and seek only His kingdom first.

When you do that, you will find that the peace that passes all understanding will wash over you.

~For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. ~ Isaiah 55:8

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.~ Philippians 4:6-7

Take my Time


I had the opportunity to teach Cultural Intelligence to a group of employees in Oklahoma City last week. The course focuses not just on Diversity in the workplace but on how to actually increase your intelligence level (like IQ) about Cultures. It’s an interesting concept and books have been written on the topic to show how you can actually measure this.

There are many differences between the Eastern and Western cultures, including perceptions of beauty, values, ethics, family and of course, language. One aspect that some don’t think about is TIME. One trip to my parents’ home and you will see the difference between the West and East. On the weekend, we are not ruled by the clock and never really were. We woke up when we did (usually around 9-ish or 10), rolled into the kitchen to make a pot of tea and no one ate until they had a cup of tea. Breakfast preparations began around 10 and we ate somewhere around 10:30 or 11. Lunch maybe happened or didn’t happen. If we had lunch, it was later in the afternoon. Dinner was yet entirely another story and almost a 2-3 hour event on its own.

When my poor American husband first came to my parents’ home, he woke up at his usual time of about 6:00 am. Why? I still don’t know why, other than he is an early riser by habit. He twiddled his thumbs until about 8:00, when he couldn’t stand it anymore and woke me up because he was starving. He decided to go and grab something to eat by himself and then he had to wait another 2 hours before anyone else got up. He was not too happy to have to sit and wait.

Breakfast, when it finally was served, was delicious but then he had the same experience trying to figure out if we were all having lunch or not. He decided to get in the car and go grab a bite to eat, since it looked like no one was interested. It was a good thing he did that, since dinner didn’t show up until almost 8:00 pm.  Dinner preparations can also take hours at times. It just depends on what’s cooking, but many Pakistani dishes need to simmer on a low heat for hours. My dad laughingly told us once that it was this way because the village women could “look busy” cooking but sit around chatting away most of the day.

Even on the weekends, things are not always this relaxed in the West. Most families have things scheduled out to the hour even on a Sunday. It was tough getting used to that pace of life when we moved here as immigrants. In addition, people here talk about time as a commodity – “It was a waste of my time” or “What’s my time worth to you?” Time definitely has a cost associated with it, especially in terms of the workplace. There is a phenomenon that the Wall Street Journal addressed a few years ago called “Time Theft.” Yes, that’s right. You can actually steal your employer’s time by fiddling with texts, phone or internet.

It’s interesting then as a Christian to go to the Bible and see what it has to say on the subject of time, for God operates beyond time and space as we know it. 2 Peter 3:8 says “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day” It’s so difficult to comprehend what this is like when we cannot see past the end of the day, the week or even the month. To think of things in terms of eternity is even more unfathomable. The Psalmist writes “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere…” Psalm 84:10 When I think of this, it’s still hard to put it in perspective but when you ponder the fact that all things are created by God and for God, then even your own time comes into it.

How difficult it is to set aside one hour for someone? What about giving up half a day or a whole day to help someone else? Even though I was raised with an Eastern mentality about time, I lived in the West. I realized a few years ago that time ruled my day. I was running from appointment to appointment and the weekend didn’t change that for me. It wasn’t until I realized that all things belong to God and the thing we hold onto most dearly is what would be the most sacrificial offering. So every morning, I started praying something very scary… “Lord, my day is yours and my time is yours. Help me to glorify you in all I do today.”

Guess what?

He did. He took my time and showed me things that I wouldn’t have normally stopped to see. He showed me opportunities to slow down and speak with people I would have normally passed by. He opened up my heart to those who may have needed a kind word, smile or even help during each day. I don’t want to tell you that this was awesome because at first, it wasn’t. It was ANNOYING. I ended up having to re-plan my day or stay later after training to speak to someone or even pray with someone who was hurting. After just a little while of giving up my time to the Lord, I realized that I was blessed. I was blessed because I was being obedient to His will and to the things that mattered in terms of eternity with Him.

It’s scary, but it’s a different adventure each day with Christ.

So we can pray (words from a Jeremy Camp song):

Take my life take my mind
Take my soul take my will
I am yours now, and I give it all to you.

… that means your time as well.