It's often been demonstrated that those of us who have called Columbus home for a long period of time learn best about what it truly has to offer from those who are new to the community.
These newcomers bring with them a different perspective on what we have here and many compare it favorably with their previous environments.
Sometimes, these revelations either serve to make us take a new look at ourselves or come to make us better appreciate what we have.
Earlier this week in a feature called Global Columbus, The Republic presented in question-and-answer format an interview with Hanna Omar, a volunteer recruiter for Developmental Services Inc. who spent much of her childhood in Yemen, the birthplace of her parents.
She came to Columbus in 2010 with her husband Nebil Baghum who had taken a position with Cummins Inc.
In a sense, she and her husband mirror a significant and recent influx of new residents to this city. Their international backgrounds speak to the cultural mix that has evolved in this community over the past decade.
It is one to which many longtime residents are still adjusting and along the way there have been fears that the adjustment was not progressing as some might have wished.
Ironically, Hanna Omar observed in the interview that she had come to Columbus with perceptions of her own, some that also reflected the fears of some residents that Columbus was not a very welcoming community.
In her words, Hanna Omar provided some valuable insights into the community that we have become.
In answer to the question “What is it like living as a Muslim in Columbus,” she said:
“Before I came to Columbus, I really thought I was going to experience a lot of prejudice. I thought that in the Midwest, especially small towns, people would be extremely hostile to Muslims.
“I came here, and my experience just tells you a lot about people’s misconceptions and how naive we are, even myself.
I really met some of the nicest people here.
I haven’t really encountered any kind of hostility or prejudice here, and I expected the complete opposite.
I guess you just never know, and that really taught me a lesson.”
Her welcome into the community was not one-sided.
An important aspect of feeling welcome is availing oneself of opportunities to become involved in activities.
That too was addressed in the interview when she urged other newcomers to avoid becoming a hermit.
“After my first month here I joined CAMEO (Columbus Area Multi-Ethnic Organization), got involved with the local mosque and volunteered at the United Way. The more you get involved in the community the more you see there’s a lot more than meets the eye. You think it’s just a small town with not much to do, but the more you get involved, the more you realize that Columbus is very diverse.”
This community has developed a reputation based on the built environment. The thoughts expressed by Hanna Omar show that there are other, much more human, qualities of which we can be proud.
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