People come to me quite often with ideas to write about. Generally, those ideas are mostly opinions. Though I may agree with their opinions, unless I can back up those ideas with facts… I don’t write about them. However, I did receive a visit the other day that has been on my mind daily. I’m not certain how to attack this topic other than simply to write about it and hope for the best.

When I look at a man or woman, I truly believe I see just that… a man or a woman. I don’t see race. I don’t see nationality. And I don’t see sexual preferences. There’s no doubt that there are good people and there are bad people in this world, but I don’t even see the bad in people until I get to know them.

Growing up in the South, I saw racial prejudice firsthand. There were people who would not shop in our family-owned retail businesses because we allowed ALL men and women to shop in our stores. There were individuals who could not believe we would hire people of ANY color to work in our businesses and run our cash registers. Hey, we were looking for good employees who wanted to work. We hired on the basis of work ethic… not what neighborhood you were raised in. And quite frankly, whether a person was white or a person of color, whether an individual was gay or straight, if the families were from the right or wrong side of the tracks… it didn’t matter. In business, everyone’s money was green.

Our area of southwest New Mexico is extremely diverse. That diversity is one of the things that truly makes our region unique. Of course, along with our wonderful year-round weather. I had to state that part for all the weather people who constantly remind me of how great it is.

I have a hard time tolerating people who are abusive to other folks. Back in Louisiana, I had a friend that used the “N” word at the drop of the hat. I am aware he learned that from his grandfather and his father, but the fact that my friend wouldn’t try to stop was upsetting to me. So much so that we stopped visiting each other’s homes or going out to eat with each other. His inability to understand that the word had a hurtful connotation became an impediment to us continuing a friendship.

In the Chamber of Commerce, I believe we see people as people… not certain types of people. I have had folks ask me how many Hispanic-owned and black-owned businesses are members of the Chamber of Commerce. I can honestly tell you, in fact if you come by my office I will show you, that my member management software doesn’t have any spaces indicating which members are Hispanic, African-American, Caucasian, Gay, Straight, Democrat, Republican, Independent, who has a college degree or who doesn’t have a high school diploma. Because it doesn’t matter. The Chamber of Commerce wants all businesses in our area to be successful. We would love to have all businesses join the Chamber of Commerce so we could work to support each one of them. However, we can’t force businesses to join the organization, nor do we recruit by targeting certain segments of our community. However, we are a Chamber of Commerce that supports and works for each and every member of our organization. It is important for our members to be successful, thus our community can be successful. Our chamber is a microcosm of our community. We strive to be diverse and we do not tolerate those who wish to harm our diversity.

My wonderful friend, Dr. Cynthia Bettison and I enjoy hour-long discussions debating our different political viewpoints. But at the end of the day, we respect one another’s tenacity and we give each other a hug as good friends should do. We understand there will always be philosophical differences, and yet we still like one another. If only our community could always be that same way.

If you want to learn how the Chamber of Commerce can try work for your business, call me at 538-3785.