This I Believe
I believe in global social justice education especially through travel. There’s no better way to learn another culture than through face to face experience. A few days after 9/11, some friends and I were sitting around the kitchen table in Evansville, Indiana engaged in the usual “ain’t it awful” talk, when someone asked what in the world we could personally do to prevent such a tragedy from ever happening again. I said I felt strongly that we needed to help young folks better understand the immense problem of world poverty, hunger, and illness, all breeding grounds for terror. I suggested that high school students we knew should be given the opportunity to have an immersion experience in a Third World country. A few weeks later we formed a support group to raise funds to help send a group to a sister church in Haiti. We gave five young Hoosiers partial grants for a cultural exchange, a“Habitat- type” program, learning to know folks in an extremely different culture. Through new friendships, shared stories, and often shocking travel experiences, they became “world citizens” interested in social justice issues abroad and at home. One trip to the Third World taught them more about global justice than their previous education.
Over the years I have encountered many folks who felt disconnected and frustrated, often by leaders who are quick to “fix” global issues by force and violence. Thankfully, I have learned that major misunderstandings and hatred and war flow out of a culture that does not promote dialogue, Third World travel, and the basic principle of all religions, a preferential option for the poor.
Even through a short trip to Honduras, inexperienced youth are able to exit their personal struggles and anxieties by becoming folks with a world view, which allows them to respond to life issues with greater creativity, wisdom, energy and joy. When they are asked to share their experiences, they are the best teachers and recruiters of future student travelers. How exciting it is when people learn lessons in patience, kindness and simplicity to replace theirover-rated materialism and provincial ways of thinking and living.
As a semi-retired person currently living in Santa Fe, I am making sculpture two days a week with all of the sales profits going into a local Global Social Justice Education Endowment. With more reflection time I am strongly convinced that when I live and learn by centering my focus on facilitating connections, I am a part of a culture of hope, helping to restore our country’s good reputation. Making connections between peoples across the hemisphere and the world is a life changing opportunity.
More than ever I believe in the importance of prioritizing funding through private endowments and public grants so that our future leaders will grow in understanding and peace. I trust that global social justice education especially through travel will continue to expand.
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