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Annette Homan: Spring can bring spirit of harmony

5:58 PM, Mar. 29, 2013  |  Comments

Ah, spring. You've finally arrived, bringing warmer temperatures, longer days and a general spring in everyone's step - pun definitely intended.

This spring is particularly pleasant for me because it's the first real spring I've experienced since 2008. I don't consider 2011 as having a real spring because, if you recall, our part of the world almost skipped winter and jumped directly into summer.

I had forgotten how the air smells cleaner and the sky seems brighter. Even the mountains of snow aren't as intrusive as they quietly draw back to reveal new growth all around.

It's easier to wake in the morning and end each day because I've seen the sun for at least a few moments before and after work. Nature is truly at its best in the spring of the year.

People are also brighter. Neighbors emerge from their winter dens, welcoming one another to a few months of yard work and home repairs. The sidewalks are almost crowded with individuals, couples, families, new parents and even pets, casually strolling along or actively returning to outdoor fitness activities.

Nearly everyone you see is smiling and offering warm greetings one another. Neighborhood conflicts about fences, overhanging tree branches and loud parties have been forgotten. It's a new beginning all around.

I wish I could determine exactly when this general attitude of mutual respect and kindness to all begins to fade. When do people return to their misunderstanding, and sometimes ignorance, of cultural, gender, religious or family differences?

On Sunday, Christians around the world, including many of us here in northeast Wisconsin, will celebrate Easter. At the same time, Jews are remembering the Passover and giving praise for the exodus their ancestors were granted so many years ago. In 2012, many people were first introduced to the culture and religion of Sikhs, sadly because of a tragic event. On March 14, the Sikhs observed their new year and, in mid-April, will celebrate Vaisakhi, perhaps the most important festival of their faith.

We know differences exist among people. We expect others to respect our personal beliefs and traditions. Yet many people still try to establish a definition of correct or normal. At times in our country, or even in our own city, people are still discriminated against because of their skin color or ethnic heritage.

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court has been debating the definition of marriage, focusing on equality of rights for all to live and love as they choose. Around the globe, people are persecuted every day and neighborhoods, much like our own, are destroyed by violence because of religious, political and cultural differences. On the news, we see examples from near and far of intolerance toward others.

And yet, here we are at the beginning of a new cycle in the natural world. Our smiles are bigger and our faces are brighter. This is a time of renewal in nature. Living organisms around us wake from their winter slumber and relearn how to live and grow in harmony.

As you emerge from a long winter and welcome spring to your friends and neighbors, take some time to think about how you'll maintain this spirit of community harmony far beyond your immediate neighborhood.

Extend a hand or a smile to all people around you. Share your faith, culture or life experiences and maintain an open mind as you listen to others share their own life stories.

Spring is a time of renewal. Conflicts in the past have been muted or even forgotten as they melt away with the winter snow. It's my hope that all people can learn to live as harmoniously as the plants and animals we see returning this season. Happy spring to all!

- Annette Homan is an Appleton resident and a Post-Crescent Community Columnist. She can be reached at pcletters@postcrescent.com

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