There are those who find comfort in surrounding themselves with people who are similar to them. Others would rather be around people who have different perspectives because it helps them to learn more about their world and themselves. On a trip to New York City over Easter weekend when I was 15, I discovered which type of person I am.
My dad thought it would be fun to go to the Easter Parade on 5th Avenue. I expected the parade to be like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day or St. Patrick’s Day Parades. I thought there would be marching bands and floats with crowds of people watching on the sides. But, the Easter Parade was very different. Before we left the hotel, I watched as my dad enthusiastically took three bonnets out of a suitcase. My first thought was: I am absolutely not wearing this ridiculous thing around the city. The hat was huge. It was light pink and had an overly wide brim with a big bow on top. What if we were the only ones at the parade wearing crazy bonnets? I would be so embarrassed.
But, when we got there, I realized why we were wearing bonnets. Instead of spectators watching from the sides of the street, everybody was gathered together in the middle of 5th Avenue, and almost everyone was wearing an Easter bonnet. There were men dressed in colorful suits with bonnets that towered over the crowd. Women wore bright wigs with fantastical hats on top. But, what I really noticed, was the different types of people wearing these crazy outfits. I saw people of all different races and heard so many different languages. The parade goers were old, young, black, white, gay and straight. Even though these people were different in so many ways, they had come together to celebrate their uniqueness and each other. It was something I had never seen before, and I found that beautiful.
Stepping down from the stairs in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and onto 5th Avenue, I joined the crowd. Immediately, people started talking to me, and I felt like I was a part of their celebration. A drag queen dressed in a bright green dress with fake butterflies stuck on and wearing a blonde beehive wig wove her way through the crowd to talk to me. She said, “Your bonnet is fabulous, but your dress needs more color.” I laughed, looking down at my simple black dress. “I’ll keep that in mind for next year.” Grinning at me under her many layers of makeup, she let herself once again be absorbed into the crowd of people. Meeting her and others at the parade was exciting. I had never interacted with a group of people this diverse before and I loved it.
I believe diversity makes the world a better place. I believe seeking out and embracing diversity makes me a better person. I have not worn my bonnet since the parade, but I like to look at pictures I took that day and remember the joy I felt when I was surrounded by all of the different people. And I will always remember what the drag queen taught me: do not be afraid to stand out, and always wear the brighter dress.