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Unity in Diversity

(Source: Jewish Home Family)

On each of our campuses this week we have seen an amazing creation take shape.  We had learned about the Unity Project that’s been done in other places and we knew that this was something we wanted to do.  The project is simple.  It consists of a central pole planted in the ground.  Surrounding that pole, at a distance and in a circle, are additional poles, each with a label on it. The labels are identifiers that describe aspects of an individual such as I am a parent, I own a home, I have a life partner, I identify as LGBTQ, I identify as straight and a number of others.  Each person comes to the project holding a skein of yarn. They tie one end of their yarn around the center pole and then they wrap their yarn around the various poles that describe one of their identifiers.

The yarns begin to cross immediately and become a kind of beautiful web, moving from individual strands of yarn to a beautiful design, a cohesive whole.  It has been one of those things that, despite or perhaps because of its simplicity, becomes almost magical to watch take shape.

The real magic, though, has been watching the staff and elders, and even some family members, get involved.  Everyone found identifiers that described them and felt comfortable wrapping their yarn around that pole and yet no one felt exposed or singled out or vulnerable.  There is an anonymity to the yarn and the poles that really enabled people to feel free to share.

Our priority with doing the Unity Project is to not just recognize but to celebrate our diversity.  Our goal is to strengthen our culture of inclusiveness, ensuring that every individual, staff or elder, feels seen and accepted and valued.  Creating this art together is a physical demonstration of just that. All of our differing identifiers, all of our differing strands of yarn, come together in one place. They cross each other, they intersect, they are each unique and yet, together, they epitomize both strength and beauty.

At the end of the week we will conclude with a brief ceremony, as we did at the outset.  We will talk about what we see and what we experienced with this project and we will admire the cohesiveness of what we have created.  Then we will cut the strands, reminding us that each of us defines ourselves individually and reminding us that our powerful whole truly is the sum of all of our diverse parts.

About the Author
Carol Silver Elliott is President and CEO of The Jewish Home Family, which runs NJ's Jewish Home at Rockleigh, Jewish Home Assisted Living, Jewish Home Foundation and Jewish Home at Home. She joined The Jewish Home Family in 2014. Previously, she served as President and CEO of Cedar Village Retirement Community in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is past chair of LeadingAge and the Association of Jewish Aging Services.
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