locally owned since 1854

Learn about diversity in our community and how we are better for it: Susannah Gal

Posted 9/12/18

While I have talked several times about my love of dancing, I have not talked much about one of my other pastimes — quilting.

I’ve not done a lot of quilting, although I really …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Learn about diversity in our community and how we are better for it: Susannah Gal

Check out the picture of a star quilt I made last year, my most challenging and beautiful completed project so far.
Check out the picture of a star quilt I made last year, my most challenging and beautiful completed project so far.
Posted

While I have talked several times about my love of dancing, I have not talked much about one of my other pastimes — quilting.

I’ve not done a lot of quilting, although I really appreciate the artistic component of putting one of these lovely objects together, something that can also provide warmth and comfort.

I’ve made two bed quilts. One was with my husband when we were just starting out, and the other started as a collaboration with my older daughter. She and I picked out the red and brown fabrics she liked and then the pattern to use for the quilt top. We worked on several of the squares together, and then summer ended and we put the project away.

That was several years ago. She has since shifted her color preferences to more pinks and grays and so was no longer interested in the quilt we had started. I continued to work on it and finally finished it about a year ago and enjoy having it on my bed. So at least two of the quilts I created have fond family memories embedded in them.

Although some quilts are made of a single fabric, most are composed of multiple materials with different colors or textures. Those different fabrics generally add life and interest in the work that wouldn’t be as visually appealing if there were only a single color represented. Given that, how does this diversity of fabrics in a quilt represent other aspects of our lives?

For instance, we know that we must eat a balanced diet — not just meat, or bread or vegetables. We need a mixture of different foods to be healthy. For instance, the “Three Sisters” represent the three main agricultural crops of various Native American groups in North America. The three foods are squash, corn and beans, which contain complex carbohydrates, essential fatty acids and all eight essential amino acids, allowing most Native American tribes to thrive on a plant-based diet.

In fact, there is a lot of value to planting diverse crops and plant varieties. In Ireland, the exclusive use of one variety of potato, the “lumper,” led to the Great Famine of 1845-1849. Potatoes are propagated vegetatively, planting the “eyes” directly with little to no genetic variation that comes from planting hybrids and mixtures of crops. When the fungus Phytophthora infestans arrived in Ireland from the Americas in 1845, the lumper potato had no resistance to the disease, leading to the nearly complete failure of the potato crop across Ireland. Had the farmers used multiple varieties of potato, the famine might not have occurred.

What other ways do we value diversity in our lives? In our finances, for instance. I wouldn’t want my pension fund to be only invested into one type of business in one area of the country. A balanced portfolio is the ultimate goal based on the financial managers I’ve talked with. What about in sports or music; would you build a football team of only fullbacks? Or a band with only trumpets?

While I think I’m a pretty good team player, would I want to have a team with just people like me on it? No. I like thinking up ideas and ways to solve problems. I need people who can put my ideas into practice and help implement the things that I think could be done.

There is some research that indicates that diverse teams make better decisions. That may not be too surprising if you think about it. People with a variety of experiences will have different insights in how to solve a problem and use that variety of insights to deal with the challenges faced.

Our world is a vast and diverse one, filled with people, foods and cultures of a variety that is staggering. How does that diversity translate to our community of Middletown and our larger region of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania? I’ve created a series of discussions on the diversity of our world and community that explores that very concept. These will be held at the Presbyterian Congregation of Middletown (at the corner of Union and Water streets) from 9:15 to 10:15 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 16, 23 and 30.

On Sept. 16, Mike Woodworth will be the presenter, talking about the diversity of borough residents, based on pictures taken at the recent National Night Out. He is a member of the Middletown Borough Council and chairman of the Human Relations Committee. He will also talk about plans for a Community Art Show event on Sept. 22.

On Sept. 23, Anna Marshall, will be the presenter. Marshall is global education coordinator at Penn State Harrisburg. In this role, she organizes new international student orientation programs, oversees and implements co-curricular programming for international students, and provides cultural trainings to faculty and staff. She will talk about the international student population on the Penn State Harrisburg campus, their financial impact on the state of Pennsylvania, and the programs for these students that are also open to our community.

On. Sept. 30, the presenter will be Christine Baer, the congregational resource developer at Church World Service Lancaster. Through her role at the Church World Service, Christine works alongside the local faith community of central Pennsylvania in their welcome of refugees. She manages the local CWS Welcome Team program and pairs teams with newly arrived refugee individuals or families from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Syria, Burma, Bhutan and Eritrea. Christine will discuss the work that Church World Service and our community do in welcoming newcomers from around the world to a place of safety.

I value the diversity of the fabric of our community and I hope you do, too. Come learn more about what diversity we have here in Middletown, the campus and in the region and how to celebrate it.

Susannah Gal is associate dean of research and outreach and a professor of biology at Penn State Harrisburg, and is a member of the Press & Journal Editorial Board. She has lived around the world and made Middletown her home in 2015. She can be reached at susannahgal1000@gmail.com.