by Sierra Pirigyi, Community Mosaic Video Project Coordinator
My boyfriend, Roger, is a big soccer fan. I didn’t grow up with soccer like he did, but I oblige and watch with him whenever Mexico is playing. I’m actually starting to enjoy soccer—I’ve been learning a lot about the game. I have the worst attention span though, particularly when it comes to sports (or action movies). I start to space off and become lost in my own thoughts when I’m watching something that doesn’t necessarily require my brain to be actively engaged. A few weeks ago, this is exactly what happened to me.
We were at home watching the U-17 World Cup Final (Mexico v. Uruguay), and the game had just ended. After Mexico won, the camera panned across the crowd in Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca. There were images upon images of the home crowd celebrating their victory. At one point, the screen showed a group of young girls in the crowd celebrating, and I thought, “Hey, they look just like Americans.” It was this thought that gave me pause. Wait, wait, wait . . . What do “Americans” look like anyway? I live in one of the most diverse countries in the world; there is no typical-looking American. I know this, and yet I couldn’t help but think that the crowd of Mexicans I was watching looked a lot like the people I see every day (Now granted, I do live in South Omaha).
My thought train then brought me to something Roger had told me a long time ago: that many people refer to the U.S. Soccer Team as “The Team of Everybody,” because it is made up of such a diverse group of players. I like thinking about the United States as the Team of Everybody, because we have such incredible diversity here in this country, whether that be ethnically, racially, religiously, or even politically. There are so many people here who come from such different backgrounds, who’ve had such different experiences, all of whom can exist in equality and harmony due to the very unique rights, freedoms, and protections that we all have.
This Team of Everybody includes people of all faiths, belief systems and cultures. No member of this team is any more important than the other, and not one is expendable. But having a team like this comes with an added challenge: the incredible complexity of identity. Just like there is no one face that looks “American,” there is no one face that looks Muslim, no one face that captures what it is to be Christian. We must recognize and respect this complexity and realize that any label we use comes with its own set of limitations.
While working on our Community Mosaic Video Project, I saw this illustrated to the greatest extent. There is great diversity of belief among different faiths and belief systems, but the diversity within those traditions is too often overlooked. Kael Sagheer, Project Interfaith Board member, once said it best: “If you’re a Christian, think of all the people you know who are Christian, or if you’re Jewish, think of all of the people you know who are Jewish. Think about the range of diversity that exists among all of those people that you know. Now realize that this diversity exists within every faith or belief system.”
Whenever we label someone, be that label American, Hindu or Republican, we must realize that no one word can encompass somebody’s identity in its entirety. There are many things that make up who we are and there is no set definition for what makes someone an [insert label here]. As we live, work and play together on our “Team of Everybody,” we must acknowledge these limitations and take the complexities of identity into account. I, for one, am proud to play for the Team of Everybody, and in my work at Project Interfaith, have gained an incredible amount of respect for the different faiths, belief systems and cultures that I have encountered—all of which are just as “American” as I.
Sierra Pirigyi is the Coordinator of Project Interfaith's Community Mosaic Video Project. She will be transferring to the University of Nebraska-Omaha this fall, to complete a dual Bachelor's degree in Business Administration and Spanish. Sierra has previously attended the University of Colorado-Denver and Metropolitan Community College.
Sierra previously worked as an Administrative Assistant for Project WISE, a Denver, Colorado non-profit working with low-income women. This is what first sparked her interest in not-for-profit work. Sierra began interning with Project Interfaith in February 2010, assisting in various fields until discovering her passion for programming. Although currently undecided about her exact career plans, Sierra intends to continue working in the non-profit field, hoping someday to do humanitarian work with children and youth. Her regional interests lie primarily within Latin America and the Middle East.
Sierra enjoys learning about history, religion, philosophy and international politics. In her spare time, she also likes to read and write.