St. Charles Herald-Guide

America’s melting pot or gumbo?

Special to the Herald-Guide - January 24, 2014

By "Deacon G" Gautrau

We have a right to honor our heritage, but we have a responsibility to respect each other’s heritage.

Throughout the years people have separated themselves by race, language, faith, homeland, political beliefs and other characteristics because they felt comfortable being with people of like kind. Our neighborhoods within our cities were segregated because people felt safe with those with whom they had much in common.

A neighborhood might be black, white, Hispanic, German, Italian, Irish and so on. Let’s suspend our imagination for a moment and imagine each neighborhood consuming only one food item. One neighborhood might eat sausage, another onions, then flour, bell peppers, andouille, celery, cooking oil and so on. People would become bored eating the same thing over and over. But what if they got together and started mixing ingredients?

America is referred to as a “melting pot”, but in a language we can appreciate locally, it would be referred to as a “gumbo”. Every gumbo has a unique combination of ingredients, yet there is no consensus on any required ingredients. Ingredients that seemingly have no business being cooked together, nevertheless contribute to the overall aroma, texture and taste of what some consider to undeniably be the best dish to be served anywhere and anytime.

In our gumbo we mix flour and oil, to create a roux to serve as the base. We add salt and pepper to season our meat. We mix the “Holy Trinity” (celery, bell pepper and onions) to add texture and flavor. People are the ingredients of America’s melting pot. Each unique person can contribute to the overall quality of the finished product, but there must be a mixture of heritages that create a synergy, where the outcome is greater than the sum of its parts. This can only happen when the people agree on a common outcome.

It happens from time to time in our lives. What triggers it can be man-made, (a building gets bombed), or a natural disaster (Hurricane Katrina) or a political situation creates an unsettled situation (new national flood premiums) that draws people of mixed heritages to bond to overcome a common “enemy”.

But why do we have to wait for these events to work together for the common good? We are all created equally. We have the same basic needs, food, shelter, clothing, education. What prevents us from working together daily?

Many of us read the Bible and have come to accept the fact that as Church, we are “One Body, Many Parts”: “As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.” (1Cor 12:12-13) Yet even though we believe this, we fail to apply it to our daily lives. How much better would America be, if we all acted as we believed?

Each one of us has the responsibility to be a key ingredient in America’s gumbo. We must allow our best selves to be mixed with unrelated others for the good of the whole.

And when the Grand Gumbo Cook Off is judged, we must remember, “If [one] part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.” (1Cor 12:26)