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By Vanessa Russell

These days terms like diversity, multiculturalism, community and post racial society are tossed around so much that you would think we finally were one big happy family. Right?

Well, life -- the circle of life and we humans in it -- is far more complex than that. Getting to know and understand someone who doesn't share our beliefs, experiences, culture and traditions takes time and commitment. Time means time to listen and learn. And commitment is probably even more important because once you invest time in people, there still has to be a commitment to respect their differences. Luckily, differences are okay! That message is shown everyday on a life-sized, colorful mural right in our own backyard.

The wall reads: Nurture Diversity....Cultivate Harmony!!

If this wall could talk

Located near the back entrance to Roxbury Mills Farm and Garden Center on the corner of Lafayette & Jackson streets is a 3 ft. wide x 8 ft. high MOSAIC MURAL! Hundreds of pieces -- fragments, colors, materials, textures, and cultures -- are assembled together to embody a resounding message of diversity and harmony within our community.

"Wow, look at this. It's amazing," said my son and daughter as they ran their hands gently across the pieces of glass mirror, gems and ceramic tile that form lovely flowers and bumble bees.

An initiative of the city's MORE (Multicultural OutReach Effort) committee, the artistic attention to detail in this mural is just as impressive as the members of the Youth Art team who assembled it piece by piece. Hundreds of volunteers helped install it.

This is truly an interactive, hands-on educational tool for your children. Within its borders are bits of memorabilia that tell the stories of the cultures who donated them.

"The Scroll of the Torah that is included in the MOREart wall comes from Israel and was displayed on my grandparents' dresser for years," stated Suzanne Moe in a MORE publication. Moe, along with Andrea Shreve Taylor, directed the mural project.

There also items like the army pin of a grandfather who served as a medic; the 1800's brass doorknob from the historic Moncure Conway House, the badge of one of Fredericksburg's first African American cab drivers in Fredericksburg; the Cuban flag and silver bells; the medallion of an organ donor; coins from Mexico, Australia, Belize, England, Bahamas, Japan and the U.S.; a glass globe symbolizing the world; a Taka Kola Bottle, possibly from the 1920's, and so much more.

Items donated in this mural, along with the many rich backgrounds of those who worked side by side for an entire week to put it together, represent the heart of this community. To me, that's what makes us all so unique. It's our different journeys, our experiences and commonalities that teach us an appreciation for life as a whole. A sincere appreciation for a WORLD that's so much bigger than each of us!

Vanessa Russell is an Emmy-Award Winning Producer; and Mid-Atlantic Media Coordinator for Mocha Moms, Inc. She lives in the city of Fredericksburg with her husband and two children.

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