My kids and I recently watched an animated film titled, “The Breadwinner.” It’s about an 11-year-old girl living in Afghanistan under the control of the Taliban. In the story, Parvana, the young girl, is unable to be out of the house – as is any female – unaccompanied by a male. She can’t buy food. She can’t fetch water. She can’t play outside. This is very problematic because her father has been unjustly arrested and it is only her mother, older sister, and infant brother. Determined to provide for the family, Parvana cuts off her hair and poses as a boy. She’s then able to find work, buy food, and have some freedoms as a boy.
After the movie, I was having a conversation with my kids. Asking them questions about what they think happened after the end of the movie, how they would feel living in an environment such as that, etc. My mother-in-law promptly chimed in saying, “That was a long, long time ago.”
My jaw dropped.
It wasn’t a long time ago. It’s happening today in varied parts of the world. And not just that scenario, but many social injustices and cruelties exist. There are too many to list and even if I attempted the list, there’s an inability of complete accuracy due to limited resources, censored reporting, and illegal operations.
While my mother-in-law may be special, I don’t think she’s unique. There are so many people who don’t know what’s going on around the world, either intentionally or unintentionally. From my experience, people like easy and they definitely relish in comfort. Looking beyond into the unfamiliar is scary and really uncomfortable. I’m not judging – I’m human, too, and feel the exact same way. A small difference that helps remove me from that zone and into one of confrontation and disruption is being a self-proclaimed global citizen.
With both logic and emotion, I believe identifying as global citizens will flatten geographical borders and unite us as one worldly community – ending social injustices. It starts with us as adults, but the true power is in raising our children with this ideology. But, what does that mean? I’ve asked myself that question and this is what I’ve come up with so far. When I take a close look at the characteristics of a global citizen, the four following attributes stick out the most.
4 Attributes of a Global Citizen
- Open HEART: Has the ability to give and receive love
- Open EYES: Understands and identifies with the culture of both their birth and resident countries (if different) while having the perspective to see beyond themselves and their situation
- Open MIND: Seeks education, cultural exploration, respects and values diversity
- Open HANDS: Stands for social justice and is willing to act locally and globally.
This is the reason the world needs you to raise global citizens. To have a clear understanding of what is going on in our shared world (in age appropriate ways). To fight for equality and stand for what we all know is right. To look discomfort in the eye and demand better for humanity as a whole. To challenge the commonplace and disrupt ease as we search for answers beyond what we know. And, finally, to live in the realization that we all have talents and gifts that should be used to better our own personal lives and of those we love, while at the same time bettering the lives of others we don’t personally know.
How do we raise our children as global citizens? That’s where the fun begins. Because your way of life can and should be fun, and this, my friend, is an awesome way of life. Looking at the four primary attributes above, think of every day moments or experiences that you can incorporate activities and conversations around open hearts, eyes, minds, and hands to love, see, respect, and act.
For example, after the kids and I watched “The Breadwinner,” we had a great conversation about equality and education. We could have discussed many, many aspects from the movie, but I let the kids lead conversation and that’s the direction it went. My daughter saw similarities between the movie and the book, “I Am Malala.” My son immediately recognized the unfairness of how girls are treated and shared his opinions of how he’d respond differently. Having these conversations is such an important foundation of a global citizen.
I’m looking forward to sharing some more of my ideas about how to incorporate activities in your everyday life that nurture global citizens with you soon.
I sign my name with an X and O, for kindness and love I hope to sow.