I have been thinking about this topic for some time. Especially after 2020 with the social unrest in this country and elsewhere in our world I think it’s time to speak up. For me, that means offering what I think is a path to an improvement in the way we look at and see each other. It comes from my experience in hotels, from the culture I grew up in, inside the hotel world, and at home.
I consider myself to be extremely fortunate for many things, but the number one thing is my parents. We were decidedly middle class. My father was an automobile mechanic turned community college instructor and my mom was a homemaker to me, my two brothers, and sister. We were not well off, but we had a home and everything we needed, especially two loving and level-headed parents.
We grew up in a small coastal town in Atlantic Canada. Diversity did not exist. Everyone was Caucasian. I mean everyone. There were no black, brown, or even yellow people. The closest thing to diversity of race was a family of First Nations people perhaps mixed with Korean. But I honestly didn’t know they were different. The thing is I don’t remember my parents ever talking about race, one way or the other. It just didn’t exist. All I remember about my parents and relating to other people is you didn’t say a bad thing about anyone period, it was not tolerated. My mother would always say this about other people who were suffering, or perhaps if we saw a person who was down or who had a problem. “There, but for the grace of God, go you and I.”
I also vividly remember my father telling me that he didn’t know anyone. If we wanted to get ahead in life, we would need to work for it. There was no one coming to save us. He also said that we could do or be anything, as long as we were willing to work for it.
From my childhood, I was given a pretty neutral view of the world because of my parents and surroundings and the fact that we grew up in a fairly remote and sparsely populated place where people were generally kind and helpful.
Fast forward 20 years and I was working in the hotel world and my first two hotels were kind of the same as my hometown, but the third one was a wake-up call. Over one thousand rooms in a big city equals over one thousand employees and the world coming together. There were all kinds of people, different races, languages, dress, food, culture—you name it and it was there.
People in our business know that hotels are pipelines into our communities. Immigrants for over 140 years in North America have found their way into their first job; in the hotel kitchen, housekeeping, accounting, food & beverage, front office, stewarding—absolutely everywhere. It’s like there was a map at the immigration office pointing to the hotel as a path to prosperity.
From this reality comes the fact that in order to be successful in the hotel we need a cohesive team. Departments and people in them need to work together and cross-departmentally as well. No one or no department is an island. No one or no department is better than another. (Perhaps the bellmen and the salespeople would take exception to this:).)
People work very hard and long days are the norm in the hotel world. From this environment, you get a lot of stress and people get put through the wringer so to speak. But what keeps people sane is the teamwork. And the diversity, I believe, is the secret fabric that provides the strength that holds things together. When I’m feeling maxed out, all I have to do is look to the left and right and I see people digging deeper than I am. I see people who have it worse than me. But there is strength in that because we all lift each other up, we don’t push each other down.
The colors melt away. You don’t see the race or the ethnicity because you’re in it together and just about everyone is in it to win. If you’re not, you won’t last. To win means to get ahead, to prosper, to find your own way. The hotel world is still a place where hope reigns supreme. You can still start in the dish pit and one day be the chief steward, or Maître D, or the Sales Manager, or the Controller, or the General Manager or, yes, even the company CEO. If your eyes are open, you see this all around you, every day. It’s what happens.
Inside the hotel world, there is hope and all someone needs to do is work for it and they will rise. Like the cream in the milk and it doesn’t matter what color your skin is. That’s my take on it. I have seen it happen a thousand times.
In life there are two things and everything we do to one another can be stripped down to either one or the other: love or hate. In the hotel world, love prevails because there is hope and a path forward for everyone as long as you’re willing to work for it. Thanks, Dad.
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