By Eliana Duran
Second Place Essay
It is crucial that we define “unity” correctly. I don’t mean to say it’s important that we find the true meaning of unity for the purposes of this essay. It’s vital for the United States as a whole.
Possible meanings for the word are as diverse as the people who seek to define it. Some definitions are impossible to achieve, and some are simpler. Others may come from an entirely different angle.
Adolf Hitler’s definition of unity was eliminating the “inferior.” He thought a unified world was one without diversity.
Karl Marx also dreamed up a nation he thought would exemplify unity. To him, unity was a world where everyone was in the same social class, and there was no competition to encourage people to work hard and climb higher. He created communism.
But what is the true meaning of unity? To me, unity is about having a new perspective. I can hardly describe this new perspective in words alone, so let me tell you a story.
A New Perspective
The opposite of unity is division. The United States is full of divisions, but so are our daily lives. So is mine.
There was a time when the way I viewed homeless people put a distinct division between myself and them.
I live in California, so seeing homeless people is a common occurrence. You’ll see them on the side of the road, holding up signs and asking for help. Whenever I looked at them, I had stereotypes on the front of my mind. The dirty clothes, the creepy dudes, the ones who just want to buy drugs or alcohol.
This changed when some friends and I volunteered to make dinner for a couple of homeless families. I stirred the spaghetti, anticipating when we would meet the people we were serving. I had the stereotypes in my expectations and couldn’t help wondering what they would be like. We had already been told to put our bags in the kitchen, rather than by the door.
After an hour or so of cooking, we finished making the meal, and two single moms and their kids came into the room.
I was surprised to see they were normal people, just like us in a lot of ways. They were dressed well, but why should I have classified a person by how they were dressed? It was there, scooping apple sauce onto plates, that it hit me. They were people. They had souls and hopes and dreams, just like me.
I got to play with their young children that evening. They were cute, fun-loving, and talkative. It was only chance that made them different from any other child. But at the same time, they weren’t really different at all.
I’ve never seen homeless people the same way since.
A New Definition
Whether or not I knew it at the time, a new definition of unity started to assert itself in my brain that day. Unity starts with having a different perspective when you look at the people around you.
It’s seeing other Americans as fellow human beings, rather than seeing them for the way they vote.
It’s loving them enough to give them a hand, no matter how they look or what their opinions are.
Viewing the people around you like neighbors, and giving them a helping hand—even if
only in spirit—though any pandemics, fires, or disasters we may face.
Unity is about how we see each other.
Unity is looking past our differences, sticking together, and moving forward with a
A New Country
People disagree on whether the US is still “united” after all that’s happened this year. Some think not, seeing all the bad, and some think otherwise, looking at all the good. It’s a matter of where your focus is. The violent riots or the peaceful protests? The harsh “mask or no mask” debates on social media, or the friends who respect each other’s opinions and find a way to compromise?
There’s really no way to know who is right about the US. How do you weigh an act of unity? How divisive is one cruel word?
People are imperfect. It’s hard to tell what the future is like. Even I have a hard time seeing what the US is actually like, outside of my little bubble and what I see on the news.
It’s possible America’s division will only grow worse until there’s another war to snap us back into our senses. It’s possible that we’ll find things quickly improving when 2021 comes.
But either way, unity in your life begins with you. Even though it takes two to have unity, it begins with the choices you make, the mindset you have, and the perspective with which you choose to view others.
That might sound cheesy, but it’s a simple fact—unless you have mind-controlling abilities. In that case, feel free to fix everyone else.
But to my everyday fellow American…
Your greatest superpower is perspective. How will you choose to use it?
Eliana Duran is a homeschooled high schooler with a love for words. Besides writing, you can often catch her doodling or reading. She is also the proud big sister of ten (and counting!). You can keep up with her at Eliana the Writer or by joining her semi-weekly newsletter.