I believe in thinking globally. With the pressing needs, concerns, and even passions of our everyday lives, it is easy to forget that we are members not only of a certain family, city, or even country, but of the world. The world needs its citizens to take the responsibilities that extend beyond their comfortable realms of what they know and have experienced.
When I was a child, one of my dreams was to go to Africa. I was fascinated by the vibrant colors and foreign rhythms of the seemingly exotic place. In college, I had my chance. While the study abroad semester in Ghana was certainly inspiring in the arts, I was perhaps most struck by the idea that Ghana was indeed a part of my world. While it seemed incredibly remote after I returned, the new awareness I had of a different culture, mindset, set of conflicts, and religion filled and developed me. Instead of clashing with a set, nationalistic identity, the experience taught me about aspects of myself – by teaching me about aspects of my world.
Now, as a high school English teacher, I have been confronted with the huge range of perspectives about the world; some students clearly don’t care about what does not directly affect them: “Global warming?” they might skeptically say. “Well, if it does exist, it won’t have any influence on my life, so I don’t have to think about it.” Or – and this is a direct quote – “I don’t think we should study other cultures because Mexicans smell.” One of my driving teacher goals is to help students become aware that there is so much out there beyond their lives – and the larger world is one in which they belong.
Of course, I am also afforded great hope when other students show both active awareness of and a sense of responsibility (if not passion) for world concerns. These are the students who have recognized their membership in a global society. Not an elite society, not a selective society, but one with an incredible and unique automatic membership for all.
It is true that with this membership comes a burden; the hunger of the impoverished, the tears of refugees, the hatred of zealots, and the suffering of AIDS victims is certainly not something one enjoys carrying. However, with the gift of life comes an innate responsibility toward what is around us, both near and far. Serving our world, while at times painful, can also give us the tremendous joy of meeting others, healing, teaching, and being taught.
And I believe that a dose of idealism can help balance the skepticism that often drags us down: our world has great capacity for growth and change. And we can help it realize its potential.
We are all citizens of a beautiful, complicated, suffering, multifarious world. This I believe.
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