Teach youth to value all cultures

Published 3:19 pm Saturday, April 21, 2012

QUESTION: How can I teach my children to both value their own culture and be open to the cultures of others?

ANSWER: When I was in my 20s, I attended a faith-community sponsored state conference at St. Olaf College.  The speaker was a Catholic priest who had lived several years on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota.  He shared an object lesson on the importance of clearly communicating our own culture and our need to ask questions and listen carefully to others, if we ever hope to understand our world.

He asked us to think about everyone we knew standing up and making a big circle. We were all struggling with imagining a very large circle of people. Besides that, I am rather certain that everyone there had a mental picture that had everyone in a circle facing each other — facing toward the center. I know I did.  The priest challenged that idea that day.  In fact, he said, we live our lives in a big circle facing outward.

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Those of us closest to each other see similar, but not exactly, the same things.  If we are ever going to understand what is outside our normal range of vision, even if we turn our heads, we are going to have to depend on others to share what they see — just as they will have to depend on us.

So, it is to everyone’s advantage to look closely at what we can see and work to describe what we see accurately — and to ask good questions of others and then be good listeners.

Remind your children that their view of life is interesting and valuable — and so are the views of the people next to them, which may well include experiences similar to their own, and so are the views of the people who live across the circle from them, which until they should have the opportunity to stand where they stand, may be very different from what they are seeing now.

Peacemakers in this world value their own perspectives and truly want to hear the perspectives of others, because they know that one person can never see the whole picture.

 If you would like to talk with a parenting specialist about the challenges in raising children, call the toll-free Parent WarmLine at 1-888-584-2204. For free emergency child care call Crisis Nursery at 1- 877-434-9599. Check out www.familiesandcommunities.org.