I flew from the United Kingdom to the United States last week with a heavy heart. Their names would be deceiving to anyone who doesn’t follow the news. Both countries are far from united. The United Kingdom is split over the pending Brexit deal leaving international businesses and EU citizens in a limbo status wondering if or how long they will be able to stay in the country they call home. And the United States is still split over an election that happened nearly a year ago. Issues such as racism, healthcare, women’s rights, global warming, and most recently the National Anthem send neighbors, friends, and families into heated arguments.
This is the world my child is growing up in.
A broken world, a disjointed world.
Before I had a child, I often wondered how parent’s coped with raising children in a world that is so corrupt, in a world where every day, a new issue darkens our door. At times, it was tempting to not have children because of how dark the world can be. But if all the decent people in the world stopped having children because of the chaos that surrounds us then what would we be left with?
Right before Isla was born, I had a mini life crisis on how I would raise my daughter in this world. I pondered over how I would parent her to view the world, to take in the world, to observe the world, to be a part of the world.
I read the Bible, and I pondered how I should raise my child. I prayed for her spirit. I prayed for her heart. From the very beginning of her life, I wanted her to know and understand that most of the world is not like her. And that’s ok. In fact, it’s beautiful.
Diversity is beautiful.
If I was going to have her in this broken world, I wanted her to be a force for good, a warrior for God, a joy and a light to others around her. I wanted her to be open-minded, an explorer, fearless. I wanted her to reach out of her comfort zone instead of putting up barriers around herself.
I’ve traveled quite a bit with Isla, and I’m always struck by the impact she has on those we encounter on our travels. She is a beaming ray of sunshine to nearly everyone she encounters. Already God is answering my prayers with her spirit. Isla beckons people to her wherever we go. She doesn’t meet a stranger, regardless of their race, religion, disposition. Nearly everyone who glances at Isla will get a dimpled smile and a wave. She invites people into her world and into mine. Recently on our trip in Italy, I nursed alongside an Iranian woman on a train to Venice. We commiserated over teething and morning sickness and discussed the Iranian way of life. She hates their life situation. And partially blames our own government and the UK’s government for her current predicaments in Iran. She wishes that we could visit where she lives, but says its prohibited for a westerner to visit her hometown. She also would love to visit the US, but knows she’ll never be able to. This made me sad. God only knows when our relationship with Iran will be at a point when we could safely visit one another. God only knows when the hatred between the two countries will vanish. For now, we can simply enjoy our chance meeting on a train. We parted ways as two travelers going to enjoy Venice with our families, but also as two mothers trying to raise our babies in this world we find ourselves in.
For a world that is so technologically advanced, we’ve isolated ourselves. We’ve isolated ourselves, our minds, and our daily lives into sectors with other people who are most like us. We like our demographics, we like our colors, we like people who pull for our teams, who voted on our side of the ballots. It’s an US vs THEM mentality. We hang out with the people who are with us and we avoid the people who are against us.
But by isolating ourselves we’ve unknowingly backed ourselves into a corner. We’ve limited ourselves and our possibilities in life. We’ve set ourselves back in time.
It’s not how I want Isla to grow up. I won’t let her grow up like that. I will continue to expose her to the world around her. To show her how people who aren’t like her live, so that she can learn from them, grow with them, love them. I want her to grow up celebrating diversity, celebrating the cultures and the people around the world. I don’t want there to ever be a “bubble” around her. Instead, I hope she breaks the molds and the bubbles. I hope she shatters them with the light of truth, with an embrace of love.
As her mother at her young age, I make her world. It is up to me what I expose her to, where I take her, and whom I allow her to encounter. It’s a daunting task, but one God has blessed me with. I’m determined for her to be a force for good and love in this world. I pray she’s kind and just. Merciful and loving. I pray she brings people of all nations, races, and religions together with her spirt of joy and love. I never want her to bat an eye at the color of one’s skin or the background of one’s upbringing. One of my favorite verses in the Bible sums up what I pray for Isla’s life:
“…and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” – Micah 6:8b
If she is only filled with justice, kindness, and humility, she will do great things in this world.
My heart is heavy because we’ve failed in our generation with these simple things. As much progress that we’ve made over the last 100 years, we aren’t showing much for it. We are greatly lacking in kindness and humility toward one another. And as far as justice? Please…We need to be better, if not for ourselves, for our children. We need to try harder because the world isn’t getting prettier.
As a parent in this tumultuous world, it can be scary raising your child. It can be overwhelming. But we can either choose to hide from the scary, or we can face it head on. Parents have been given a gift to raise and prepare the next generation. What are we teaching our children about others? What are we teaching them about the world? And are we showing them love and kindness? Are we emulating what the next generation needs to be? We are shaping our childrens’s world. Let that sink in.