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Planting Seeds of Tolerance

March 29, 1993

Your editorial on March 18 ("Tolerance: Why Schools Must Lead") was exceptionally wise and extremely vital. The schools are a wonderful place to plant the seeds of tolerance, understanding and harmony in this time of increasing diversity and tension. But I would like to suggest that all citizens need more knowledge and skills in learning not only how to "get along" or to tolerate diversity, but to cherish difference.

Perhaps the experience of the Children's Bureau of Southern California can provide a model for action. Since 1904 this not-for-profit organization has been providing child abuse and neglect prevention and early intervention services to troubled families with young children. During the events of April 30, 1992, fires burned within a block of our headquarters at Vermont and the Hollywood Freeway. Staff in other offices, including Inglewood, feared for their personal safety and that of the families they serve. The neighborhoods where several of our staff live were directly impacted.

Shortly afterward we invited those interested to join a staff "diversity council." Twenty employees of diverse backgrounds volunteered, and we began an exploration into how an organization can make a difference.

One year later, the group is now a permanent part of the agency's life and practice. Training on race and human relations is a part of our regular curriculum and increasingly open discussions are occurring throughout the agency as individuals develop broader skills in communication, listening and understanding.

It is my hope that we will each take the learning achieved at the workplace to our homes, our neighborhoods, our churches and everywhere people gather. We strongly believe that if we all start at "home," we can get along and thrive.

JUDITH A. NELSON

Executive Director

Children's Bureau of Southern California

Los Angeles

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