Multiculturalism opens up the opportunity for mutual giftedness. Cultures in partnership gift one another with what they value and nurture.
By exposing us to varied styles and alternate meaning, the gifts of multiculturalism can restore balance to the lopsided system of values and ethics that characterize modern Western society.
Alienation is the tragic outcome of a culture of divestment and isolation.
A culture of divestment dissociates the individual, family, and community from the power that could be theirs. Divestment dissociates the employee from meaningful work, the student from the joy of learning, the citizen from real voice in the democratic process.
A culture of isolation affects identity in two ways. The “American ideal” of the insular family and the self-sufficient hero dissociates the family and the individual from a sense of community. The addictive preoccupation with electronic media, relational networks, video games foster an ultimate loneliness. In the midst of instant cyber communication and a vast array of electronic entertainment, the complaint heard most often by the young is -- “I am bored”.
We are by nature relational beings and the extended relationships of many cultures can gift us with the answer to the hunger of the insular and individual culture.
The extended family provides a sense of identity and nurtures the young. The American dream of the small family, independent of the influence of the parent and the support of the grandparent, is alien to cultures where generations live together and (sometimes are forced to) practice mutualism.
Mythos does not mean falsehood or story. Every society and culture, including our own, has its mythos, those structures in culture and family that are the organizing force, represent matter in the collective unconscious, and explain the mysteries of existence. I choose to involve myself with the mythos that gives my life meaning and purpose through organized Christian religion.
Carl Jung shared an understanding of the Collective Unconscious with its archetypes structured in the human personality. Access to archetypal symbols, themes, and experiences has the power to bring about transformation and healing.
Tribal healers focus the forces of nature (of which they and the ill tribe member mutually hold sacred) through potions, ritual and ceremony on what is disturbing the individual. Both the Western health professional and the shaman are “experts” in their own areas (i.e., the Latin expertus means “experienced in”). At times, they meet with different outcomes. In one instance, the aged man or woman may live beyond his or her years and is confined in a semi-vegetative state to a convalescent hospital, where some are forgotten; in the other, the ancestor passes to another world where he or she are revered in perpetuity.
Varied cultures have myths that tell of the origin of polyculturalism. In many of the myths, people began as one.
The Old Testament tells the story of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11: 2-9). The people desired to build a tower to reach to heaven. They said: “Let us make a name for ourselves, so we won’t be scattered throughout the earth.” Upset by human arrogance, Yahweh destroyed the temple, confused the languages, and scattered them throughout the earth.
A Hindu myth speaks of a tree planted in the center of the world. It grew so large and so wide, it thought its limbs could provide shade and protection for all the people of the earth. But the god Brahma was displeased with the pride of the tree, and shattered its branches. The saplings came up as the varied cultures and languages of the human race.
The Americas tell the story of a flood that covered the earth. Before the flood all the people were one. But the flood dispersed humanity far and wide.
Another Native American myth recounts the creator and coyote. Coyote, carrying sticks, would leave a bundle in each site they passed in their travels. The next day the separate bundles would awaken as a different tribe or race with different tongues.
In Greek mythology, Pandora opens a box that lets chaos loose in the world.
A profound insight of these cultural myths is the original human unity that was dismantled, sometimes as a punishment for pride. Multiculturalism seeks to recover that unity, not by undoing the rich variety of languages, races and cultures, but through partnership. In the words of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, we “got to get ourselves back to the garden.”
Grief and Loss
Studies show that the genetic predisposition to depression is less likely to affect the person in collectivistic cultures than in our western individualistic cultures. 
The first of the classic stages of grief in adults is denial.I presided at funerals and burials in a parish where multiculturalism was prized. At the graveside, the Sicilian Italian, Mexican, Filipino, and African American communities that comprised that parish were not shy to pour out their emotion. It was almost an expectation to find the burial service accompanied by shouts, tears, sometimes drinking, picture taking, music, singing, even people assuming the role of expressing grief in behalf of the others!
The celebration of El Día de los Muertos in Mexico, the day before the Catholic feast of All Saints, many families make special celebratory altars in the home to commemorate the dead. Altars are curiously decorated with comical sugared confections of skulls and skeletons for children to eat.Every All Souls day my family in the Philippines packs a day-long meal (careful to bring a special snack for the deceased) and festive family reunions and community celebrations, with colorful candles burning into the night, take place around the tombstones of those who have passed on.
After denial, there are other classic stages we pass through to complete our grief process: anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. People with a collective culture, who have confronted and passed through the stage of denial, not only the more better can move on in the process but also can count on the support of others to see them through. Some cultures keep sacred monthly and annual remembrances where family and friends come together for prayer, food, conversation, tears and laughter.
Hospitality can be best translated in Latin Cultures. In Latin, the word "Hospes", from which comes our word "Hospitality", at the same time means both guest and host. There is no other word to distinguish the two. Easily from the lips comes the promise to a friend or even an associate: "Mi Casa Es Su Casa." ("My House is Your House").
Hospitality fosters Intimacy and Reciprocity. There is a shared vulnerability in opening doors to a stranger and entering the house of a stranger.
Hospitality evens out the sense of differential power. There is a big difference between power and control. In Spanish, the noun for power is "Poder". Used as a verb, "Poder" means "to be able". Control, on the other hand, is an illusion maintained by the assumptions one makes based on role and environment. Hospitality never holds control; it holds opportunities to broaden horizons and make friends and neighbors.
We ritualize our most sacred experiences. This is like wrapping them in a precious package so that we do not squander or lose sight of them.
Liturgical ritual provides the context for communal religious experience. In the liturgical renewal in the Catholic Church referred to above, the words and actions of the “Mass” (thereafter referred to as “Eucharist” – a word meaning “thanksgiving”) were scrutinized with an eye to their meaning. Where the meaning was indiscernible or lacking in relevance, the ritual was either modernized or eliminated. For those who clung to ritual for its own sake, for whom meaning and style were closely related, the transition was difficult. I took great pains in explaining the meaning of the changes, and my efforts paid off in the joy, participation, confidence, and faithfulness of many (but, sadly, not all) church members. On the other hand, pastors who did not understand or accept the renewal had less “buy in” from parishioners.
Not only are important moments ritualized, but many cultures have developed rituals to provide norms and manners of relationship and to regulate the everyday tasks of life. There are culturally determined rituals for encounter and departure; for dressing and undressing; for courtship and intimacy; for mealtime and bedtime. Ritual may transmit a degree of sacredness to the ordinary. To transgress the ritual may infer rudeness or lack of respect.
A highly ritualized culture can eliminate the need to take a unique approach to each and every life task, or change expectations, or explain what is going on.On the other hand, needless ritual gets in the way of spontaneity. At times, overly ritualized behavior can be a sign of mental illness.
Unfamiliar to our Western view of life is the Eastern reliance on luck and fate.
Luck, good or bad, orients the individual to surprise and the unexpected. It dispels the illusion of control that many hold in their lives.It is the unfolding of a life that, at its core, is a mystery.
Fate implies surrender. One doesn’t fight what he or she cannot change. One does not give up on a relationship of it does not turn out as one dreamed.
Wisdom is gained though a combination of insight and experience. Often, the elders – those who have the most experience -- are the custodians of wisdom. The reverence with which a culture treats its elderly is a gauge of the importance the culture gives to wisdom.
Seldom are the young disposed to bypass the “hard knocks” of experience. Tradition comes from the Latin traditio, which means to “pass on”. The collective wisdom of a culture is passed down through lore, writings, rituals, from generation to generation.
The art of listening and attentiveness is especially helpful. Cultures, surrounded by noise and distraction, are more prone to ignore wisdom.
Ancient Greece captured the varied senses of time by setting aside two different words to describe time: Chronos (χρσνσς) and Kairos (καιρσς).
Chronos refers to the measuring of moments and hours on the clock. Scheduling, efficiency, production, promptness -- those qualities so valued by the Western culture -- are standards based on a Chronos appreciation of time.
Kairos refers to the opportune moment for something to happen. Unscheduled events are appreciated as much as what had been entered into our calendars. In a Kairos appreciation of time, there is more room for reverence, hospitality, spontaneity, the relaxed and unforced development of a relationship, the opportunity for a child to progress at his/her own pace, despite the pressures of a jittery set of parents.
One of the most accessible features of multiculturalism is its celebratory ritual. By surrounding us with ceremony, song, festival, parade, dance, specially prepared food, music, colorful adornment, culturally diverse celebratory ritual enriches the human palette (and palate!).
Community celebrations are not as unstructured and spontaneous as some would have imagined them to be. Upon examination, we become aware of the high degree of structure of some of the events we take for granted, from a wedding reception to a Thanksgiving dinner.
In most cultures, alcohol and other drugs are utilized as an important feature of that culture’s celebration. Generally, they serve as a social elixir; at times, they can serve as a group bond or offer a shared experience of rapture. Overuse and abuse of the drug at social events violate its utility. “Less advanced” cultures can serve as a model for those cultures “more advanced” where “party drugs” are routinely abused.
As indicated in the above section on ritual, structure preserves what is important to that community or family. We celebrate special events, annual remembrances, important people.
I use to manage a process of mental-health assessment and treatment for foster children. (The foster care system is sometimes a “subculture” unto itself.) Very often the foster child is lost in the shuffle of placement changes and large families, at times needing to shift from culture to culture depending on the family in which he or she is placed. Birthdays would come and go, and sometimes the foster child’s was regularly skipped. The value of the individual family member is recognized in the birthday celebration. Other celebrations may recognize the role of the family member (e.g., mother's day) but we use birthdays to single out, celebrate and gift each person in the family. Remembering the foster child at his or her birthday is to say: Everyone in this family is special and so are you!
Northwestern University (2009, October 30). 'Culture Of We' Buffers Genetic Tendency To Depression. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 12, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091028090659.htm