Same path. Different journey.

  • Published
  • By Jeanne Morrow
  • McChord Community Support Coordinator

In 1943 Abraham Maslow theorized that humans have a Hierarchy of Needs that begins with the basics such as food, shelter and water and progresses gradually until we are searching for validation and higher meaning in our lives.  

Maslow determined that every human has these needs and that their behavior will be dictated by these needs: Until we have a reliable source of food and water, we do not have the time or even the inclination of searching for things such as self-esteem and meaning.  

This theory was not further defined by our race, gender or religion. Every human who has a beating heart that pushes blood to their extremities and brain is included. We all start out with the most basic of needs: Food, water, shelter, air, sleep.  

If we do not have those most basic requirements, we can focus on nothing further. Our living body needs these things and tells us so through signals such as hunger, thirst and exhaustion. Again, the need is universal and not unique to any one race or gender. Everyone’s body lets them know: “I need air!”  

Our Challenge: If we are all this same in this theory, then why are we all so very different? Perhaps it is the reality that some humans begin life with the needs on the bottom of the pyramid already met. They are born into families or communities that make sure they have food, water and warmth. They may even provide for the needs on the second level: security and safety. This “head-start” allows that group of humans to seek the higher goals such as relationships and self-esteem much earlier than others.    

Whether we can acknowledge it or not, we sometimes pass judgment or make assumptions about our fellow humans based on very shallow and unreliable data. When we don’t understand behavior or actions, we do what is simplest: We judge with the information available quickly from our eyes and ears instead of processing further using our brains.  

If we gave it some thought, we might remember that each person is on an individual journey up Maslow’s pyramid and each of us has started that journey at a different point. We seek the same needed elements of a happy existence: Food, belonging, safety, validation. If you believe that any living, breathing human being does not require the same things as you, then you should pull out your 5thgrade science book again and do a quick review.    

The Democrat has the same needs as the Republican, the female has the same needs as the male, the American has the same needs as the Australian. The difference does not lie in the need, it lies in where they are in the journey and how they perceive they can get their need met.  

Leading the Way - This year, the Air Force will be seeking to teach its Airmen the value and meaning of diversity. It is a broad word: Diversity. It is not a training that we complete on the computer in an hour and say “I’m done”. It is not spending a day eating food from other cultures.  

 It is a journey - It means taking the time to understand that we did not all start out life in the same place and even if we did, we do not progress at the same pace. It may take one person a very long time to understand the meaning of “I feel safe.” while others never struggle with that concept at all.  

It means taking the time to stop ourselves from making a determination of someone’s worth after a 15 second sound bite. It requires an open mind. And generosity. It is a difficult task to step away from our assumptions and use not just our eyes and our ears, but our intellect. It is a journey worth taking.  

The McChord Diversity Working Group will be offering several opportunities to learn about how we share our sameness and value our differences. Please join us for one of these discussions and events.