Over the past couple of days at the Families in Global Transition Conference, it was inspirational to meet some amazing people who have stories similar to my own. When I think about my life, I’m honored to realize that I’ve led a pretty cool life. I was born in Taiwan and lived there for most of my childhood. During those eighteen years, I traveled to the Philippines, Japan, and Thailand. Then I received a quality education from a liberal arts college, during which time I connected with phenomenal people and lived in Italy for four months. After that, I taught in rural North Carolina, where I met some powerful students and visionaries. Now I get to travel to Haiti to work with teachers who have an amazing passion for their students.
Many times, rehashing my life for people results in glazed over looks and confusion. But over the past weekend, that’s the last thing that’s happened. Because everyone else has had a similar story. Moreover, these people are trying to make a difference with their stories. This weekend I met Tayo Rockson, a TCK who lived in five countries and founded Use Your Difference (http://www.uydmag.com) to encourage people to “Use their difference to make a difference.” I met Ellen Mahoney, who founded Sea Change Mentoring (http://seachangementoring.com) as a mentoring organization for TCKs in high schools and universities. I met Ruth Van Reken and Michael Pollock, who have established and continued groundbreaking research into the impacts that global mobility has on children.
Talking to these people made me remember that I could be part of something bigger. As mobile as we are, and however much we end up dispersing across the globe, we as TCKs have a unique opportunity to make a difference in the world due to our backgrounds and global upbringing. The conduit for that difference may vary, and one is not necessarily better than others, but it happens. This revelation isn’t new, but I was definitely reminded of it this weekend.
But honestly, we’re really not that special. Pieces of our stories resonate with so many others. How we acquired our stories may be unique, but the impacts that they have on us are similar.
And that’s where we get to start bridging worlds for others.
Because even though I’m a white female, I want to help the Haitian (or Taiwanese, or Romanian, or South African) student tell his or her story to the world through education. Because if we’re not careful, these students are going to lose their cultural identity in the face of globalization in the same way that TCKs risk not developing their cultural identity because they never grow up in one culture.
And I firmly believe that one of the vehicles to do this is education. Through education, we build empathy. Through empathy, we build understanding. And through understanding, we build the ability to listen to others, recognize, and celebrate their differences.
After the conference ended, I met up with one of my North Carolina friends for dinner in DC. We had a few extra minutes and with them we visited a small, local bookstore. As I was browsing through the books, my eye caught a children’s book that had the blue UNICEF brand emblazoned on its cover. The letters read A life like mine. I grabbed it and started flipping through it, slowly discovering that this book identified different themes of cultural identity and depicted how these indicators were manifested in different cultures across the world. As I looked further throughout the store, I found an entire education shelf devoted to cultural response teaching and education as identity development. Please feel free to check out their website: http://www.tfcbooks.org.
I realized that this is where I get to start bridging worlds. Through my passion for education, and I get the help teachers give their students a voice that will further their cultural identity while still understanding others.