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Will you get outside your box today?

The famous words of Robert Fulghum that started in a book and found their way to countless schoolroom posters come to a close with a simple point.

“And it is still true, no matter how old you are — when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.”

Fulghum’s message was part of his book, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,” and his words represent the way many of us approach life.

Except for a few loners in the world, most of us survive childhood, teen years and adulthood by clinging to those we know.

Family, friends or co-workers that surround us build a barrier of protection from the big, nasty world, and, for too many of us, from people we don’t understand.

I guess I was a bit shocked by the results of our totally unscientific online poll Tuesday, even though I know I shouldn’t have been.

When we posted the question Monday, I assumed the results would reflect a few conscience-padding lies.

I still expect that some voters lied when they answered, which makes the results a bit more disturbing.

The question — Do you seek to learn about people who aren’t like you? — was spurred from our staff editorial which was in response to the words of the Rev. Neddie Winters of Mission Mississippi.

Winters spoke at Christian Hope Baptist Church Sunday, spreading his message of slow, but steady, racial reconciliation.

The response of our online readership leads me to a realization I’m sure I knew deep down before Tuesday but that is still no less disturbing.

The majority of our readers openly admitted that, “no,” they don’t seek to learn about those who are different.

And I figure at least 5 percent of the voters who said “yes,” were merely lying to themselves.

Most of us know we don’t seek to learn as much about others as we should. Most of us admit we are happy to stay in our circle of contacts without broadening our horizons.

Most of us really never did learn much beyond those kindergarten lessons; since, even though we know better, we do nothing about it.

It’s not difficult, even in a small city such as Natchez, to daily seek to learn something about a co-worker or neighbor who you may consider totally different from yourself. A few simple questions delivered with a smile — not a cynical tone of voice — would likely open doors to a new world.

Just like the kindergartners who learn that that giving that funny looking green cupcake a try is well worth it, adults who approach life willing to learn about those they don’t understand often uncover greatness.

Fulghum was correct. It’s best to stick together in this life. But it’s up to us to define how big and diverse our circle of togetherness really is.

For most of us, that circle lacks color, shape, taste and opinions. For most of us, that circle is simply a moving mirror.

Today, you can accept your life in a bubble or you can reach outside your circle of trust to learn just a tidbit about someone else. Add a bit more knowledge tomorrow and the next day and see where you are by the end of the week.

It’s up to you, but remember, either way, kindergartners are watching, learning and copying for eternity.


Julie Cooper is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551 or julie.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.