What are labels? In terms of people, they are what we use to identify someone, so as to give them context in our world. I’m not talking about names. I’m talking about how we identify ourselves or how others identify us. I’m a mother, stepmother, grandmother, friend, sister, neighbor, etc. I’m straight, I’m a partner and I’m Hawaiian, as well as other nationalities. In your world, I’m a columnist. In my world, you are a reader and community member. Often, we overthink labels and give them way too much significance. The more life experience I gain, the more I feel this way. You may have experienced a time when someone wanted to put a label on you that for you didn’t fit. I’ve never liked it when I’ve been at events involving parents and I get asked if I’m a Minnetonka hockey mom or soccer mom. For someone else, that might be how they identify themselves. There is nothing wrong with those labels, but personally I don’t identify myself by my kids’ hobbies or sports. Honestly, because I was never into what they were into to the level they were. I supported them, but never jumped in myself. I admire the parents who share those passions and identify as a hockey mom or dad, etc. I admire their shared passion. Sports are not something my children and I bonded over. But, beaches and travel, yes! My more accurate label maybe should have been beach mom. Labels can also make people uncomfortable. Labels like divorced, widowed, gay or Muslim make some uncomfortable. Why? These labels represent different ideas, beliefs and experiences. We grow through new ideas and experiences, good or bad. These labels are not the whole person. They are often just part of who this person is, but sometimes we tend to lump them into just one label. Our Lake Minnetonka community is not as diverse as I personally would like it to be. We have made great strides and conversations that result in more growth are occurring each day. Many are becoming more accepting of different labels as our diversity grows. Some are threatened by this and choose to voice their opposition to labels they don’t care for or understand. Where I think we can all bridge the gap better in our community is understanding the difference between diversity and inclusion. Author Verna Meyers said it well, “Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.” That statement says it all. We have gotten better at inviting different people from ourselves to the party, but now we need to ask them to dance. Diversity doesn’t exist only in the realm of race, religion or sexual preference. Though that is where we are most familiar with the concept. I may not agree with your political views, but that does not mean I don’t like you or would not share a meal with you. What disturbs me is when I see individuals making broad statements about an individual or group different from them in an effort to exclude them from the party, let alone the dance floor. When we do this, we stop seeing individuals as just that, individuals. I’ve seen this with race, religion, sexual preference and even what part of town someone is from. My challenge to myself and to you is to see the whole person. Your neighbor might hate the Grateful Dead and you are a die-hard fan, maybe there is something else about them you can appreciate? Maybe you share a love of boating and didn’t know it? Your co-worker might be a huge President Donald Trump supporter, where you are not. Beyond that label of Trump supporter may lie an individual who shares your passion for supporting animal rescue groups. Until we look beyond the labels we use to identify people, we will never truly know the individual. Knowing and accepting each other is what makes us a community. We don’t need to all agree on everything to be a community. What makes us diverse could also be what brings us together.

What are labels? In terms of people, they are what we use to identify someone, so as to give them context in our world. I’m not talking about names. I’m talking about how we identify ourselves or how others identify us.

I’m a mother, stepmother, grandmother, friend, sister, neighbor, etc. I’m straight, I’m a partner and I’m Hawaiian, as well as other nationalities. In your world, I’m a columnist. In my world, you are a reader and community member.

Often, we overthink labels and give them way too much significance. The more life experience I gain, the more I feel this way. You may have experienced a time when someone wanted to put a label on you that for you didn’t fit. I’ve never liked it when I’ve been at events involving parents and I get asked if I’m a Minnetonka hockey mom or soccer mom. For someone else, that might be how they identify themselves.

There is nothing wrong with those labels, but personally I don’t identify myself by my kids’ hobbies or sports. Honestly, because I was never into what they were into to the level they were. I supported them, but never jumped in myself. I admire the parents who share those passions and identify as a hockey mom or dad, etc. I admire their shared passion. Sports are not something my children and I bonded over. But, beaches and travel, yes! My more accurate label maybe should have been beach mom.

Labels can also make people uncomfortable. Labels like divorced, widowed, gay or Muslim make some uncomfortable. Why? These labels represent different ideas, beliefs and experiences. We grow through new ideas and experiences, good or bad. These labels are not the whole person. They are often just part of who this person is, but sometimes we tend to lump them into just one label.

Our Lake Minnetonka community is not as diverse as I personally would like it to be. We have made great strides and conversations that result in more growth are occurring each day. Many are becoming more accepting of different labels as our diversity grows. Some are threatened by this and choose to voice their opposition to labels they don’t care for or understand.

Where I think we can all bridge the gap better in our community is understanding the difference between diversity and inclusion. Author Verna Meyers said it well, “Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.” That statement says it all. We have gotten better at inviting different people from ourselves to the party, but now we need to ask them to dance.

Diversity doesn’t exist only in the realm of race, religion or sexual preference. Though that is where we are most familiar with the concept. I may not agree with your political views, but that does not mean I don’t like you or would not share a meal with you.

What disturbs me is when I see individuals making broad statements about an individual or group different from them in an effort to exclude them from the party, let alone the dance floor. When we do this, we stop seeing individuals as just that, individuals. I’ve seen this with race, religion, sexual preference and even what part of town someone is from.

My challenge to myself and to you is to see the whole person. Your neighbor might hate the Grateful Dead and you are a die-hard fan, maybe there is something else about them you can appreciate? Maybe you share a love of boating and didn’t know it?

Your co-worker might be a huge President Donald Trump supporter, where you are not. Beyond that label of Trump supporter may lie an individual who shares your passion for supporting animal rescue groups.

Until we look beyond the labels we use to identify people, we will never truly know the individual. Knowing and accepting each other is what makes us a community. We don’t need to all agree on everything to be a community. What makes us diverse could also be what brings us together.

You can learn more about Natalie Webster and her adventures in the Lake Minnetonka area at WebsterEffect.com.

Melissa Turtinen is the community editor for Lakeshore Weekly News and Eden Prairie News. She's passionate about adding context to stories and informing people about what's going on in their community. She enjoys being outside, traveling and good beer.

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