Why should I avoid naming the teddy bear Mohammed? Should I shake hands, bow or kiss on both cheeks? Understanding global practices and perspectives may take a lifetime, but most of our Ethical Culture families would like for their progeny to grow up at home in the world. For some of our international families, there are already direct, first-hand links to far-away places. For many other families, global consciousness takes more deliberate action.
HOST THE WORLD
When my children were young, for a time I was teaching English as a Second Language in the evenings at the Fort Lee Adult School. When the term ended for the summer, my students wanted to continue. So I opened up the basement of my home, and continued English lessons. The lessons grew into friendships. Later, when the man from Brazil could no longer afford his Union City rent, our basement became his home for 5 months. After he left, the family from Italy moved in for six weeks when they were between homes, then the Romanian family after that. Filadelfo, from Brazil, showed his appreciation by fixing things in the house and playing with the kids. He made Feijoada for us on New Year’s Eve and shared pictures of Belo Horizonte. Maurizio and Laura, who came from Parma, decided to contribute by doing all the cooking and food shopping for both families. We ate and played together, my two kids with their little Giorgio and Giulio. My daughters still remember that Non ho fatto niente means “I didn’t do anything.” They heard mischievous Giulio say that to his mom several times a day. All of my guests considered this hospitality an act of great generosity, but it was our lives that had become enriched. My children found that people of other languages, colors and cultures were playful, interesting and definitely not to be avoided.
Not everyone has a chance to host the world. Here are some other ways to expand our horizons. Some suggestions are products, some are practices, and the more intense ones offer new perspectives.
- Keep an oversized world map on the wall and refer
- Get your child or grandchild his or her own real passport, even if there is no trip planned.
- Listen to an older person from another country talk about his or her childhood.
- Have the family practice eating efficiently with chopsticks.
- Seek out foreign films for children that are dubbed in English.
- If you have a Christmas tree, decorate it with ornaments from different cultures. Talk about them.
- Supplement the school’s language program with MUZZY video clips from YouTube or another outside language program. If the school doesn’t have a language program, advocate for one.
- Follow a sports team from another country and learn as much as you can about the players.
- Listen to world music at home and/or in the car (Putumayo puts out a vast selection).
- Sponsor a child from an organization such as Save the Children. Plan to visit that child someday.
- Look for exchange programs in other countries where your youngster can live with a family.
MEET OUR SYRIAN FRIENDS
There is no substitute for meeting face-to-face. Making a friend from another culture is terrific. Living in another country is even better. At the Ethical Culture Society we offer our Sunday school students a variety of cultural learning opportunities. Now we will have a unique chance to get to know two Syrian families, friends of the Society, and a gentleman from Yemen.
If you don’t have children or grandchildren to bring, enjoy the chance to show some kindness to folks whose experience has been fraught with hardship. If you do have children, please bring them. They can extend a welcome to the seven children from Syria so that, perhaps, they may be made more at home in our world, as well.
Please bring a dish for six (main dish, side or salad, appetizer, or dessert). NOTE: Anything with meat must be Halal. No pork. Vegetarian or fish dishes are fine.
Contact Linda Bennett (201-390-6177) so she can coordinate the dishes.