February 14, 2019 § Leave a comment
I’ll take inspiration where I find it, even if it’s from a book’s back cover . . . quoted at Amazon.com.
The book is Bo M. White’s A Time to Question Everything: Embracing Good News and Bad Days. White is the director of study abroad at Baylor University and has traveled to over 40 countries in his work with NGOs, international non-profits, and international education. The bio at his website says,
Married with two children, Bo has lived near Chicago, St. Louis, Phoenix, and Kansas City, but a little street in Central London remains a significant place because it’s where he explored the power of story with great intensity, studying at the University of London within walking distance of the former residences of Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf, and T. S. Eliot. It’s where he first explored in any serious way the idea of grace attending an RML group at St. Helen’s Church at Bishopsgate. And it’s where culture was explored through a law internship that took him inside London prisons, a University class that took him inside many of London’s incredible theatres, and a chance to see himself and his life outside America for the first time.
The book-cover blurb goes like this:
Bookstores and blogs display stories of people who go from bad days to good days, encouraging people to break out of their slump, pick themselves up, and make something awesome happen. Readers are supposed to get inspired and fix themselves. A Time to Question Everything, instead, offers space to bring personal demons, doubts, and disappointments to the table, daring people to believe that embracing the daily struggle of faith is indeed the good life. Unlike any other world religion, the Christian faith celebrates grace, not self-improvement. The heart of A Time to Question Everything is this sincere question: can grace hold the weight of this messy life?
The part here that struck me is that “embracing the daily struggle of faith is indeed the good life.” That’s the kind of thing I was trying to say nearly two years ago in my post “Surviving? Thriving? How about Striving?” at A Life Overseas. In it I express that when we’re in a situation where thriving seems out of reach, we shouldn’t give up but should see striving as a worthy alternative. Striving—or “struggling”—is a natural part, a positive part, of living, whether that’s at home or abroad.
In a comment following my post, Erika Loftis wrote,
I understand what you mean by striving. But striving also sounds like “trying” and it’s the trying that seems to be the weight dragging us all under water. Trying to keep our neighbors impressed with us, trying to learn language, trying to keep people from thinking we are too rich or too poor. Trying trying trying . . . I wonder if striving, in the holy sense, comes from some semblance of settled and embracing our life and surroundings. . . . If I’m honest, I had a strong reaction, a sense of hope seeping away, that I or anyone around me, has any chance off this well beaten path towards burn out (which is sort of the modern day martyr . . . except for anyone who knows the burnt out/burning out missionary). If striving is the best we will ever achieve, we will stay on this path of strive/trying and ultimately end up at the bottom of Burn Out Canyon. Strive/Trying to still be a Christian. Or not trying anymore. . . .
I certainly don’t mean to add to anyone’s burden by saying “strive more” or “try harder.” Instead, my hope is to say that striving is not less acceptable than thriving—it’s just where we often find ourselves.
“I wonder if striving, in the holy sense . . .” Yes, “holy” striving is what I want to practice, and I guess I’m still figuring out what that looks like. Jesus says his yoke is easy and his burden is light, but I’m not always able to take hold of that truth. The burdens we pick up can sure feel hard and heavy. I hope that we will all keep trying (and ultimately I’m talking about our walk with Christ, not about a particular ministry or situation), while trusting that God’s grace will meet us more than halfway.
I wish that at the time I’d been able to make my point more clearly by crafting a phrase as good as “embracing the daily struggle of faith is indeed the good life.” Embracing . . . that’s even better than simply accepting. Struggle of faith . . . that’s a good way to sum up striving. The good life . . . that’s what we all want, and we need to know that that good life is defined by grace, not by more and more effort.
I haven’t read A Time to Question Everything yet, but I’m not above judging a book by its back cover, so I’ve added it to my Amazon Wishlist—which really should be renamed my Amazon wish-everything-here-was-free-and-I-had-three-extra-hours-a-day-to-read-all-these-books list.
I actually don’t think I’ll ever get to all the titles in the depths of my collection, but I am making some progress. And at least for now, this one’s at the top.
(Bo M. White, “About Me,” Bo M. White; Bo M. White, A Time to Question Everything: Embracing Good News and Bad Days, Wipf and Stock, 2018)
February 2, 2019 § Leave a comment
Have you ever wanted to show, not just tell, people what culture stress is like? Have you ever wanted them to experience it a bit without them having to travel overseas?
Have you ever heard about Barnga?
Barnga is a simulation game created by Sivasailam “Thiagi” Thiagarajan in 1980, while working for USAID in Gbarnga, Liberia. . . .
January 26, 2019 § Leave a comment
“More than 145,000 Rohingya Refugee Children Return to School in Bangladesh Refugee Camps as New School Year Starts”
More than 145,000 Rohingya refugee children living in camps in south-east Bangladesh are now attending UNICEF-supported learning centres, as a new school year begins.
Following a huge effort from the humanitarian community to construct a network of around 1,600 Learning Centres throughout the camps—providing vital access to education for children who fled violence in Myanmar—attention is now turning to providing education for thousands of other children who still lack access.
The aim is to eventually reach 260,000 children with education this year through an extended network of 2,500 Learning Centres run by 5,000 teachers and Rohingya volunteers.
. . . . .
“Many children have suffered traumatic injuries from gunshot wounds and extreme violence, restricting their mobility and access to services. We see many children with mixed learning abilities, physical disabilities, visual impairment and speech difficulties,” said Iffat Farhana, Education Officer, UNICEF Cox’s Bazar. “Each of these children has a right to education. With more Learning Centres and more teachers, UNICEF hopes to reach every child to help them learn, grow and realise their potential.”
. . . . .
It is estimated that there are about 500,000 children under the age of 18 living in the camps, with about 300,000 aged 3 to 14.
About 700,000 Rohingyas fled persecution in Myanmar at the end of 2017, bringing the total population of the refugee camps close to a million people.
(UNICEF, January 24, 2019)
(featuring scenes from Shaolin Tagou, the largest Kung Fu school in China, with over 35,000 students)
January 6, 2019 § Leave a comment
I don’t read travel magazines much. I just don’t seem to fit into their target demographic. I like to dream, but I can’t afford to visit most of their “Bucket List Destinations for this year!” No, the the magazines I normally browse are less apt to showcase the five best restaurants in Paris than they are to feature the latest 2-for-$5 meals at McDonald’s.
But travel mags can be more than just catalogues for vacation ideas. They can also be educational. Take, for instance, Afar, which teaches that you don’t actually need a bucket list. In fact, its writers tell us why you should take your list and tear it up and throw it out.
An even better learning experience can be found in Afar‘s online quizzes. Covering desserts to UNESCO sites, here are ten mini exams to test your global knowledge. Even if you don’t learn something new, they’ll help you find out what you don’t know. And after you get your results (just click “Skip This Step” at the end), Afar will give suggestions on articles you can read to brush up more on each topic. Isn’t that nice of them?
- Are You a Geography Nerd? Prove It.
- Can You Match These Holidays to Their Home Countries?
- Can You Match These Sister Cities?
- How Well Do You Know Your World Capitals?
- How Well Do You Know These Desserts from around the World?
- How Well Do You Know Food around the World?
- How Well Do You Know UNESCO World Heritage Sites?
- Test Your Knowledge of Independence Days around the World
- Test Your Knowledge of World Architecture
- Match the Metro to the City
December 21, 2018 § Leave a comment
The venerable Oxford Dictionaries has announced its 2018 word of the year, and it’s toxic. (No, it’s not a toxic word, toxic is the word itself.)
Fun fact: Toxic comes from the Greek toxicon pharmakon, meaning “arrow poison.” So it’s actually the “archery/bow” part of the phrase (toxicon) that gives us today’s poisonous word.
Not-so-fun fact: According to Oxford Dictionaries, “In 2018, toxic has become a potent descriptor for the year’s most-talked-about topics.” The top-ten list of these topics, gathered from the dictionary’s corpus, includes pairing toxic with words representing the physical realm, such as chemical, substance, gas, waste, algae, and air. But it also includes words for the immaterial, such as masculinity, environment, relationship, and culture.
It’s this second category that I think of when I hear toxic associated with 2018—in particular the toxicity of social media. And I’m not the only one who thinks our online communities can be poisonous. Take, for instance, these headlines from the past year:
- “5 Ways to Tame the Social Media Toxicity in Your Life,” Forbes, February 26, 2018
- “Social Media: Breeding the Toxic?” The Times of India, June 18, 2018
- “Is Social Media Becoming Too Toxic?” Forbes, July 19, 2018
- “Toxic Social Media: 7 Reasons to Ditch Instagram,” Naturehub, August 21, 2018
- “Cloutlighting: From Online ‘Pranks’ to Toxic Social Media Trend,” BBC, November 2018
- “5 Toxic Social Media Habits That You Should Try & Unlearn ASAP,” Bustle, December 2018
- “Is Social Media Beneficial or Toxic to the Youth??” The New Times, December 6, 2018
- “Despite Official Threats, Toxic Social Media, Journalist Sees ‘A Battle We Can Win’,” NPR, December 15, 2018
- “Twitter Is Toxic Place for Women, Finds Amnesty International Report,” The Independent, December 18, 2018
Online toxicity takes many forms, but when it comes to dealing with internet-born hatred and virulent personal attacks, one person has come up with her own solution: face-to-face conversations. Her name is Özlem Cekic and she’s a former member of the Danish parliament. Born to Kurdish parents in Turkey, Cekic lived in Finland for two years as a young child after her parents moved there to work as caretakers in the Turkish embassy. Later, they relocated to Denmark when her parents took jobs there. As an adult, in 2007, she became one of the first females from an ethnic background elected as an MP.
It should come as no surprise that that distinction made her the target of a large amount of hate-filled email. In her TED Talk from last month, Cekic says that for a few years she responded with anger and fear, but then a friend suggested she call up her harassers to begin a real dialogue. She decided to try it and contacted Ingolf, the most prolific author of her hate mail. She first called him on the phone and later visited him in his home. “I ended up staying for two and a half hours,” she says. “And we had so many things in common. Even our prejudices were alike.”
She continued talking with Ingolf, and with many more who opposed her, and started promoting #DialogueCoffee meetings to encourage others to follow her lead. For the last eight years she has taught by example that we should stop demonizing people who disagree with us and engage them in conversation instead. And during that time, she’s “learned some valuable lessons” herself:
The people who sent hate mails are workers, husbands, wives, parents like you and me. I’m not saying that their behavior is acceptable, but I have learned to distance myself from the hateful views without distancing myself from the person who’s expressing those views. And I have discovered that the people I visit are just as afraid of people they don’t know as I was afraid of them before I started inviting myself for coffee.
In the list of online articles above, you can see there’s one called “Cloutlighting: From Online ‘Pranks’ to Toxic Social Media Trend.” Reading it, I learned what “cloutlighting” is. The word is a combination of clout and gaslighting and it refers to someone pranking a friend to get an emotional reaction or to start an argument. The cloutlighter then records the response and posts it on the internet. (It sounds like the kind of thing that a victim of Jimmy Kimmel’s I-ate-your-Halloween-candy prank might grow up to despise.)
Cloutlighting is a way to take someone you’re close to and use social media to push them away. Cekic, on the other hand, shows us how to take someone we’re distant from and use a cup of coffee to find common ground.
I sure hope cloutlighting doesn’t become 2019’s word of the year.
(“Word of the Year 2018 Is . . . ,” Oxford Dictionaries; Özlem Cekic, “Why I Have Coffee with People Who Send Me Hate Mail,” TED Talk, November 17, 2018.)