My three-year-old daughter’s favorite song is “Jesus Loves the Little Children of the World.” She belts it out whenever or wherever she feels the inclination.
When I was her age, I also liked to sing and dance.
My parents ran a group home for young adults with intellectual disabilities. We lived with these six individuals. We ate with them, spent time with them, and they slept one room over from me. Little did I know that these six adults were able to live somewhat independently, despite their disabilities, because my parents lived with them and had the help of extra staff who came and went throughout the day.
All I knew was that they were my family.
Around the age of three, though, I noticed something. These people, “my family,” were NOT like me.
One of them drooled. Many didn’t sound like the other adults in my life, and one of them was blind.
Until this time, I had never noticed that they were DIFFERENT.
One of my favorite things about Charleston Bilingual Academy is their vision of “. . . combating unintentional and intentional racism, classism, xenophobia, poverty and broken families.”
When God created the world, He created a mosaic of different people, cultures, and families.
I know from my own experience that when you make DIFFERENT normal to a child, it doesn’t become a dividing point. At the age of three, instead of turning to dread or disgust over the disabilities I noticed in the adults who lived with us, I only had love.
I loved the residents in my house before I knew they were different. And I loved them, even more, when I understood who they were.
That’s the magic of childhood. Before the world comes in and tells children to see or treat someone differently, children have a glimpse of how God sees people: equal and valued.
Now, as a parent, I want to expose my kids to as much of God’s beautiful, varied world as I can. By making different normal, I hope my kids will not turn from those who are unlike them but instead extend a hand of friendship and continue to see people how God sees them.
Because as my daughter likes to remind us, “Jesus loves the little children of the world!”
A truth that unites all of us.
We can celebrate different cultures, languages, and people who may not look or sound like our family instead of making DIFFERENT strange. Like Jesus, we can love all the children of the world.
As we’ve seen in the past several weeks, America needs World Changers who aren’t afraid to navigate racial, classist, and cultural divides with God’s love and truth.
That’s why my kids attended Charleston Bilingual Academy, to expose them to a different language than the one we speak at home (plus all the cultures represented by teachers).
And that’s why we travel. We want to experience, with all our senses, different cultural adventures.
But this summer, traveling to another country is not on our calendar.
How do I plan on keeping my kids culturally active this summer?
Here is our plan to get our family out of our comfort zones and try new things:
Children’s books can be a window into another world. Books are an accessible way to introduce kids to people and places that are different than what they usually experience.
I like reading books with my children because we can go at our pace. My kids can ask questions, and together we can navigate new or challenging topics. Books can be the bridge to compassion, empathy, and understanding.
I like to find books that have characters who look or sound different than my family. I also love books translated from other languages, books about different countries, etc. There are so many book choices! The convenient thing about books is that with a local library card, you have access to A LOT of material. Charleston, Berkley, and Dorchester libraries all have online e-books available. (And if your library has access, I whole-heartedly recommend TumbleBooks in Spanish.)
We love trying new foods as a family, and it’s probably my favorite way of experiencing a new culture. Bonus: Because we try so many new foods, my kids aren’t as picky of eaters! When I’m introducing new foods to my children, I give them a tablespoon or less. Our dinner table revolves around this idea: You don’t have to like it, but you need to try it. (I make my kids take two bites.) We talk about the color and the texture and the flavor. Sometimes they don’t like something the first time or second time. But then they surprise me by asking for seconds the third time.
As a cook, I’m a slow learner. I need a lot of courage to try a new recipe. (Have you seen the CBA maestras make recipes from their countries? It looks so manageable!) But if you’re not a cook, why not try new ethnic food via a restaurant? (I know many local, ethnic restaurants are not “authentic” to the countries and cultures they represent; however, the food is usually different enough that it allows my children to try something new, even if it’s just the practice of trying something other than their favorite mac ‘n cheese!) If you think your kids aren’t brave enough for a whole meal, start small with a snack. There are some great International grocery stores in the Charleston area. (Euro Foods and Bakery and H&L Asian Market are our favorites). Your kids will love trying cookies or crackers with brightly colored packages in a different language.
The sweetest way to get to know another culture or someone who is unlike you is through friendship. CBA brings diverse families together for that exact opportunity. But there are also ways to reach out globally. For many years, our family has sponsored a child where we write and pray for that child. Another idea is to find out which missionaries your church supports and write a missionary family, asking what their country’s culture is like and how you can better pray for them.
Also, with everything happening globally, most of the local assisted living homes have limited their visitors. Why not strike up a new friendship there? Many residents would love to receive a homemade card or greeting. Also, programs are looking for individuals to “adopt-a-grandparent.” Having your children forge a friendship with someone of a different generation could be a learning experience and opportunity to share God’s love!
Charleston Bilingual Academy celebrates cultures and shares a love for the people who make those cultures unique. And in return, CBA is encouraging a generation of World Changers who are already impacting their communities with God’s love and truth!
While on summer break, how are your World Changers keeping culturally active? Share with us!