“It takes all of us coming together to make a difference.”

“Does anyone remember what they were doing on July 7th, 2016?”

This was the opening statement of Dr. Brian H. Williams, the speaker for last  week’s convocation at Southern Adventist University.

On July 7th, 2016 in Downtown Dallas, a black U.S. Army veteran attacked white police officers who were  providing security during a peaceful rally that was taking place.  Williams shared his experience and explained that he was one of the surgeons on call by coincidence that day in the hospital. He told of the unforgettable memory and explained how he felt at that moment. Being the only black surgeon on call  that night, he felt the pressure and all the eyes of the media on him, especially because the patients were white police officers.

In his talk, Williams touched on the issues regarding racial prejudice in the lives of minority. He is a trauma surgeon at Parkland Memorial Hospital , a speaker and an activist that talks about topics that aren’t comfortable to all audiences. On his official website, he is described as a speaker who tackles the tough topics head-on, “aiming to inspire empathy and action in his audiences…Dr. Williams shares insights on resilience and racial justice.”

Williams continued the thought by sayings that in that moment, he felt like it didn’t matter what the color of his skin was nor what the color of the injured people were. He was there for one purpose, to save their lives. Williams acknowledged that back in 2016, after the shootings, many people began to form Black lives matter movements, along with White lives matter and All lives matter. Williams shared his thoughts on the movements stating, “Do all lives matter? Of course they do, however, we have to recognize that some lives are given more importance than others.”

He talked about other things he experienced in the field such as racial prejudice and being left out of class and work activities because of his skin color.  One of the memories he talked about had a happy ending. He spoke of his days in college when he was in med school. He had continuously felt left out of the scene and never felt welcome, until one white woman stood up for him by telling the others in the group that Williams was also part of the group. After that day, he was more engaged and felt part of the group because one person had stepped up and made a difference in his life.

Williams closed his talk saying, “It takes all of us coming together to make a difference. If you are not a minority, be conscious of what you say and what you do. If you are a minority, think of what you are going to say and what you are going to do.”


A 5-step plan for exploring other culture


When I was 11 years old, my world was turned upside down. Up until that time, I had spent most of my life in Chile – a place where my family and I were foreigners, but we still called home.  I embraced the environment that surrounded me and celebrated the same traditions as my friends.

Everything changed in 2009 when my family decided to move to the Philippines.

I felt completely lost. Everything, from the language to the food, was different. It was an immense cultural shock that left me crying for some normality.

What made things even more difficult, however, was that the shock came from various cultures, not just the Filipino one.

My father was a professor at an international institution, where than 50 countries were represented. Many families – – just like mine — had been living in their home countries, emerged in their cultures. They had just moved to a new environment, which became a melting pot.  

For a long time, it was a struggle. Yet, as time progressed, I  actually learned to appreciate the various cultures around me as much as my own.

Here are five steps that helped me do so. And I hope they help you, too.

I knew my  own culture

This may sound silly, or even counterproductive (why am I looking at my culture when I am trying to learn about a different one?). But getting to know one’s own culture is the first crucial step to take when learning to appreciate others. We may not always realize it, but the culture in which we are raised has helped shape the way we view the world. Our opinions, assumptions and even the way we think is somehow shaped by the customs we follow.

There are certain things we may scorn because our own culture has taught us to do so. For example, why was I disgusted when someone would slurp on their soup? Because in my culture that is impolite to do. But just because it is rude in my culture does it actually make it wrong?  If we understand from where that judgment originates, then we open ourselves to see things from a different perspective.

Ask yourself:

How has my worldview been affected by my culture?

What part of my culture is holding me back from understanding someone else’s?


“Your culture is your limit; if you can’t go beyond it you will remain as a frog of your little lake.” – Mehmet Murat Ildan

I was open to other cultures


One of the things that bothered me in the Philippines was having to take off my shoes whenever I went to a friend’s house. What if their floor was dirty? What if my feet got cold? What was the point of all this fuss?

To me it was ridiculous. Then I learned that in many Asian cultures home is viewed as one’s private space and traditionally history most things were done on the floor (Yes, even eating and sleeping).  So, the fact that someone is inviting you to their personal space, means they are opening themselves to you. Taking off your shoes means that you appreciate and respect that act of kindness.

If we do not try to learn about someone’s culture, then we will miss the chance of seeing the beauty behind each tradition.

Ask yourself: What can someone’s culture teach me about the person?

How will understanding their culture help me see the beauty in their traditions?


“When you learn something from people, or from a culture, you accept it as a gift and it is your lifelong commitment to preserve it and build on it” – Yoyo Ma


I tried new things


Growing up, I was a picky eater. That is why my first potluck in the Philippines consisted of me wrinkling my nose as I scanned all the dishes I knew I was not going to eat. This was the first time I had seen food from places such Thailand, Kenya or China. The food looked weird; it looked different. Even with the variety of choices, I ended up having what my mom had brought.

Now, imagine my surprise when I tried all those different foods and found out how delicious they actually were. Soon enough, dumplings, pancit, tkeok-bokki, curry and chapatti became my favorite meals. But even more importantly, I became a fan of trying new cuisine.

One of my personal and favorite theories is that to truly know a country’s culture you have to try their street food. Yet, this was something I would have never discovered if I had not allowed myself to try.

Ask yourself: What could I be missing because I am not trying? What choices could I make to change that?

“Never be afraid of trying something new, because life gets boring when you stay within the limits of what you already know” – Unknown


I respected other traditions


While I tried to learn and appreciate other cultures, there were certain things that I could not fully comprehend. I learned that we are all unique and hold various viewpoints.

Disagreements are bound to occur. However, it is important to realize that though we may different times, it does not give us the right to disrespect other people or their cultures.

No culture is superior to another. Despite what ethnocentrism tries to teach, all cultures hold the same value and are special in their own ways.

Ask yourself: Do I want others to respect me and my culture? Am I showing that kind of respect to those who are different from me?


“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”  – Audre Lorde

I built relationships

One of the cultures I had the hardest time relating to was the Korean culture. Though I had tried my best to enjoy the traditions,  it just seemed like I could never quite get there.

A majority of my classmates were Koreans, and whenever I was around them I felt lost and out of place. I respected them, but I still was unable to appreciate their traditions like I appreciated others.

Then during my freshman year of high school, I became friends with a girl named Deborah. I did not know it then, but she would become one of my dearest friends. Talking to her did not only give me the chance to get to know her as a person but also a chance to see the Korean culture in a new light.

Ask yourself: What have I learned from the friends I already have? How can I expand my circle of friends?

“Every person is a new door to a different world.” – Unknown