My captive children munched on popcorn, and sloppily slurped juice from their thermoses in the backseat of the minivan as we made our way across the George Washington Bridge on our trek south to Virginia. My four-year-old glanced up briefly to cheer the Manhattan skyline (a landmark in the journey) as Bhangra music chimed through the car speakers and a young Indian child chattered on the DVD about going to school in a bus. That is right, not getting to school on a bus like our kids do, but rather school was a bus you got to ride around on for two hrs. Another girl talked about going to school at night, in the dark, by the light of solar lanterns, because as a girl her parents her parents couldn’t make the financial sacrifice to send her in the day. Others told their stories about going to school on a boat or in a mud desert. My mom had checked out this great DVD from her library knowing it would meet with my hearty approval as summer road trip entertainment. My children sat transfixed by the unusual stories of children half a world away.
When I was the age of my eldest son, we lived in Turkey. My dad was doing legal negotiations for the government. While I lived in an embassy-leased apartment, I bought ekmek and visne in my broken Turkish from the street tiny market and went on Saturdays to a village well to fill poly buckets for our drinking water. I shopped for carpets, visited Troy and Ephesus, and admired the treasures of the Ottoman Empire, but I also remember beggars on the foul-smelling streets, riding on a third class train, and our neighbor’s animals arriving via taxi for their annual sacrifice. It was two years of rich immersion in a developing country that profoundly shaped my world view. I followed it with study abroad in the Middle East and medical missions as a professional to Africa and Asia.
I wish my children could experience something similar. I beg my husband for an expatriate jaunt, but jet setting opportunities for mechanical engineers are limited. I want my children to see the world! My dream isn’t really to take them to Paris, or London, my dream is to take them to meet nomadic Bedouins in Morocco or to ride jeepneys in the Philippines, and spend time in a dung hut in the Kenyan countryside. I want to take them to the places that changed me.
Realistically I can’t take them to these places yet, we’re still working to peaceably make it through sacrament meeting. But one day passports in hand, we’ll load onto those fifteen hour flights, and trek off to parts less traveled. Until then, they’re stuck with “World Living 10″1 taught every summer semester by yours truly. We read great books, watch DVDs, take trips through my photo albums, and use it as a great justification to try new foreign restaurants.
My favorite books, A Life Like Mine and Children Just Like Me, paint very honest portraits of how children live around the world. I wanted my boys to see how much of the world has empty plates and pantries. I wanted them to understand most children their can count their clothing or toys on two hands. I want them to understand just how privileged their realm of education, health care, and opportunity are. I want them to feel a sense of responsibility, a sense of accountability, to understand stewardship and to really believe that “where much is given, much is required”. To appreciate what they have and extend the blessings of education and opportunity to others.
We do what we can now; we involve our boys in giving. They help chose various charities to donate to and which entrepreneurs to support with Kiva loans. They help me purchase, pack, and ship supplies off to various organizations. Our conversations and experiences have been powerful. This growing sense of social responsibility in my still very young children fills my heart. I was moved beyond words when my son when ran, off only to return with his tooth fairy money (the only money to his name) determined to donate it.
Truth be told when they are old enough, I want them to toss and turn at night the way I did, pondering the inequity and inequality of it all. I want them to feel that same sick feeling in their stomach the first time they return to an American shopping mall after spending time with families in an indigent village. I want them to wake up realizing that all they have surpasses the wildest dreams and farthest grasp of most of the world. While our summer journey’s may only be through seven states down I-95, I hope their hearts are are beginning to travel far to far more humble corners of the world.
How do you feel about your place in our world? How do you maintain perspective? What has helped open your eyes and your heart to the blessings you have? What are your favorite ways to reach out and make a difference in the world?
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