The problem with too much potato salad

Have you ever been to a potluck dinner where everyone decided to bring potato salad on that particular day? You may have a lot of really first-class potato salads to choose from, but when it comes down to it, you would probably be much happier if there were also a nice dish of baked beans, a platter of fried chicken, and maybe some pound cake. No matter how much you like potato salad, the experience would suffer from a lack of variety.

In case you have never thought of it in these terms before, our community is very much like a potluck dinner. It is at its best when we each bring something a little different to the table.

When the Chamber holds its annual Leadership Class, we always start by taking some time to get acquainted with the other class members with whom we will be spending the next six months. One of my favorite exercises is to break up into groups of four for a few minutes with the task of identifying three things that everyone in the group has in common. I think it is human nature to assume that the person sitting next to you comes from a similar background and thinks, acts, and lives more or less like you do, but this could not be more wrong.

This fun get-to-know-you game never fails to deliver a profound message, that each of us is a very unique individual. I have never heard any group that was able to identify anything of any significance that they all had in common. They end up grasping at very superficial things such as, “we are all four wearing some type of shoes,” to complete the required list.

Personally, I am delighted that no one else is exactly like me. If y’all were cut from the same cloth as me, there would be no musicians or artists, no one to fix or repair anything, and the entire world would shut down at about 8:30 p.m. — and that is just for starters.

A community is richer for the diversity of its residents. Problems are easier to solve if we have people looking at the issues from all angles. Innovative ideas flow more easily when everyone brings different experiences to the process. The arts become more interesting when different cultures come together.

Instead of looking for neighbors who are just like us, we should be hoping that they are different from us in every way. It is the shear variety of the spread that makes the potluck such a satisfying form of dining. By pooling our various unique talents, celebrating and encouraging our differences, and supplementing each other’s weaknesses, we can leverage our strength to lift our entire community. We are all so different, and we are all better together.

Barbara Andersen
Executive Director
Blount-Oneonta Chamber of Commerce