Appreciating the Differences

By Danny Ngo, Program Manager, Holdridge

Respecting Abilities. Reaching for Opportunities. Realizing Dreams.

Hammer’s motto provides the ideology that inspires every department, program, and staff member to offer the best service possible to our diverse population. At the heart of this philosophy lies a focus on the unique qualities of each and every person. Unfortunately, these qualities can often go unnoticed, unappreciated, or underdeveloped.

When I was in high school, a long-time acquaintance of mine expressed amazement when I began talking about my Vietnamese heritage. What dismayed me was that he wasn’t surprised by my Vietnamese-American ethnicity. Instead, he was surprised that my race was Asian.

“I don’t see things like that. Everybody is the same color to me.”

Thirteen years later, those words continue to resonate in my life. Although my acquaintance’s color-blind approach to race was grounded in good intentions, it was misguided in that it completely disregarded one of the major aspects of my identity. If you don’t see what makes me different, then you don’t truly see who I am.

It took many years of awkward adolescence and young adulthood to genuinely appreciate the aspects of my character that made me uniquely special from my peers. Eventually, those differences became sources of pride and inspired my interest in celebrating the features of others that make them unique. It can range from physical aspects such as ethnicity, face shape, or body-type to personality characteristics such as a juvenile sense of humor, interest in a specific sports team, or in the case of some of our residents, a love for hoarding collecting objects.

What isn’t initially obvious is that beneath each of these characteristics lies an interesting story that can help illustrate an individual’s rich history. In my case, being Asian tells a story of growing up as a minority in the United States. It also tells a story of finding a balance between my Vietnamese heritage and a need and want to fit in with my American peers. For one of my residents, his deep love of the Green Bay Packers stems from his close relationship with his grandfather, whom he lost several years ago. And for his pen collecting housemate, each pen in his vast stockpile tells a fun story of where he obtained it.

DN_NL_Pens for Nov blog







So, the next time you meet someone who looks or acts differently from you, don’t be afraid to ask them about it. And when someone you serve expresses a quirky behavior, think carefully about how and why that behavior came about and how it adds to his or her character. By embracing the features that make us unique, we can all have the opportunity to become extraordinary people.


  1. Terriann Matejcek

    Thank you! I love this.

  2. Julane Rose

    Beautiful and inspirational… thank you, Danny!!

  3. Kim Hansen

    Wonderful & inspiring!


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