Note: It's still snowing today, but I thought I'd spare you more weather whine. Instead, I'm going a bit preachy on y'all, as I've been psyching myself up to leave Norway and return to Canada. So without further ado...I give you my "Ode To Canada."
Babies are born colourblind. They do not distinguish between blue or brown eyes. A white face or a black one.
Babies love whoever loves them back.
As they grow, children begin to look for more than just baby lovin', but they're still making friendships based on personality traits. They remain unmoved by externals such as skin colour, gender, size or grooming for a long time. Two kids who like to talk will naturally gravitate towards each other, as will those who prefer to run and jump.
Oh, to be wise like a child again!
Children's International Summer Villages (CISV) is an organization that sends children at age 11 to camps all over the world for a month. The organization, which celebrated 50 years in 2007, was conceived by a child psychologist after the devastations of World War II.
The intent behind CISV is building peace through friendship, and its central idea is that this must begin with the younger generation.
While they are still colourblind.
I was lucky enough to go to a CISV camp in Brazil as an 11 year old girl, along with three other kids from my country. The impact this experience had on me cannot be exaggerated, as it allowed me to make friends with children whose backgrounds couldn’t have been more different from my own.
And the single most important lesson I learnt that summer was that behind those external differences, we were really all the same.
But my children are even luckier than I am. They don’t need to go to a camp half around the world – they live this reality every day in their very own community in Canada.
My boys have grown up with friends and neighbours who have different traditions, religions (occasionally wearing different clothing in deference to these religions) and skin colour, often speaking more than one language at home.
Mike and I like to refer to the children’s school as a "mini UN", filled by kids who hail from countries all around the planet. Lunchtime is a sight to see. Out come the naan and curries, the rice and the noodles, the burgers and fries, the croissants and cheese. It is a veritable feast of world cuisine.
Through school and play dates, our children and their friends take bits and pieces from their individual backgrounds, and create a brand new value system that is much more international than anything I had a chance to experience in just one month in Brazil.
We now celebrate holidays I had never heard of before, we eat foods my parents would gawk at, and we have fun doing it!
Imagine how the world would look if today's world leaders had gone to a CISV camp or grown up in a community such as ours in Canada. Would we still have all these conflicts based on either religion or a fight for wealth?
Perhaps I am naïve, but it seems to me that many of the problems in the world today are caused by fear. Fear of the unknown and fear of having things taken away (sadly, we don’t become better at sharing as we age – quite the contrary).
And as we grow older, the instinct to surround ourselves with what is familiar - and therefore less challenging - appears to become more ingrained.
We gradually become less open, less colourblind.
That's why CISV has it right – it is important to start with the younger generation.
Or better yet, grow up in a place where everyone is different. Because if different is what you are used to, what’s familiar to you – then it’s not really different at all. Or scary.
As great as Norway is - for us it has been absolutely wonderful this year – I think the future of the world relies on inter-marriage, figuratively and literally. And in that respect, Canada is light-years ahead.