This post is contributed by Deidra Razzaque, a SPS Featured Blogger.
Sometimes it seems as though the children in our lives must be developing an understanding of the world as easily as they inhale the air around them. They are exposed, after all, to a constant media stream of images and articles about aspects of life in many places.
Also, some of them have traveled and many have friends from diverse parts of the world. But I’ve realized that, for my kids anyway, they still thrive on having conversations and some hands-on learning about the people and places in the world.
Just because you see or hear something doesn’t mean you know how to appreciate or understand it. Especially given the nuances of culture, language, history, and the whole gamut of what it means to bring our experiences together with the experiences of others and make sense of them together.
In my family, we’re always looking at how we can increase our understanding of places and people beyond our door. Here are some things that have worked well for us:
1. Share Music
When I heard Brushy One String’s delightful song Chicken in the Corn, I just knew that it would have my six-year-old dancing in a heartbeat. After we watched Brushy’s video, we listened to his tale on NPR’s The Story, and felt beyond fascinated by this Jamaican musician. This led my kids to experiment with creating instruments out of the unexpected, to ask questions about life in Jamaica, and to listen to music from other countries.
2. Share Food
One day my 10-year-old was practicing her cooking skills. When I said that her cucumber soup paired with salty bread topped with feta cheese seemed rather Mediterranean, she responded that it would be fun to make food from around the world every week. So we decided to put a map on the kitchen wall and go to it. In preparation for our meals, we try to learn fun facts about the country we’re eating in that night. This week we’re planning on Colombian arepas that we’ll fill like taco shells. See the recipe we’re using here.
3. Share Stories
When our friend, Sheila, held a local fundraiser for Foyer Evangelique Orphanage in Haiti, my kids wanted to see the mime and other fun performances. But what they talked about all the way home were Sheila’s stories about the orphanage, and how much the kids there seemed to appreciate things they often take for granted.
Their favorite story was about a ten-year-old boy whose shoes were too small for his feet. When Sheila arrived with a variety of shoes, he found a pair of pink sandals that fit him well. He loved those shoes, cleaned them every day, even slept with them.
My son talked about how rare it would be for him or one of his friends to only have shoes that were too small for them, and also what it would be like to appreciate and take care of pink shoes because they might worry that people would make fun of them for liking something that was stereotypically “for girls.”
My kids talked for weeks about the stories Sheila told, and then, months later when they earned some money at a garage sale, they told me they were donating it to the orphanage in Haiti. Stories shifted their perception of what mattered, and stories also gave them the sense that they could make a positive difference in the world. You can learn more about the story of Foyer Evangelique here.
I bet you see that the key word for me is SHARE.
When we share, we learn to empathize. When we share, we learn to ask good questions. When we share, we learn to listen well to the answers. And so many good things can grow as a result.
How have you helped the children in your lives increase their understanding of the world?