Diversity in the Pickle Aisle

Image for Diversity Pickles

When I was 19 I drove across the country, seeing friends who’d moved away from my native Michigan and visiting family I’d never met. One of these family members was my Great Uncle Bill, in Kansas City, my father’s favorite uncle. My dad wanted me to meet Bill, and I guess that he wrote ahead to ask Bill to talk some sense into his somewhat wild and unappreciative son.

Bill was a tall, genial man in his late 80s, and he asked me to take him to the grocery store.

Diversity in the supermarket

When we entered the store–very brightly lit with shining white tiles–Bill ambled past several aisles and then stopped. I stopped with him. We looked down the aisle. It must have been two hundred feet long. Pickles on both sides. Gherkins. Dills. Pickled eggs. Pickled peppers. Pickle relish. I asked, “You want to get some pickles?”

He said, “Naw.” And he chuckled. “It’s a pickle aisle. It’s all pickles.”

“Do you like pickles?”

“Not really.” He had a way of talking in which the letter L stuck on his tongue. “But I like this. There’s so many kinds. Pickles!”

And so we admired the pickles together, and then Bill said, “Right!” and, with less fanfare, led me on to the ice cream aisle.

What was his point? I was pretty sure he had one; pretty sure my father had prepped him to say something of import to me.

I thought about it the next day as I drove across Kansas, passing herds of recently sheared sheep that looked like zombie dogs. It was better than AM radio.

Bill had lived through the Depression; the family, impoverished, dispersed to seek opportunities elsewhere. It had been hard, but they’d survived. The diversity of the pickle aisle reflected the freakishly bounteous time and place (for the fortunate) in which he and I lived. Diversity is something to celebrate, appreciate, relish. I was to be grateful for this bounty.

I was and I am, but I don’t think that diversity is simply a reflection of bounty; I believe that it helps create bounty. Diversity leads to better societies, better decisions, better ideas, better stories, better lives. Even when it’s just pickles.(by Alan Bradshaw, Bliss Group Books, editor)

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