Friday, November 15, 2013


   A baby has to be one of the best bridge builders in the world. Take a baby to any country, any church, temple, or mosque, any political rally - and people from different backgrounds and different world views will smile and coo at your little bundle of joy. 

   I hadn't thought a lot about babies in recent years . . . until now that I'm expecting my daughter to give birth to my first grandchild next month. Now I'm remembering everything I experienced as a new mother, nearly 28 years ago: the joys and the challenges, the tiny clothes that are so quickly outgrown, and the favorite picture books. I'm pulling books and stuffed animals out of storage, dusting and washing them. Knitting booties and a tiny hooded sweater. I can't wait to meet this new little person when he enters the world, and I'm revisiting the mind-boggling questions that new life brings up. 

   We all started out as babies, but very few remember a single moment from that first year of life. Fewer still remember where they were before they were born. Where did we come from? I'm not referring to the dance of sperm and egg and how they got together to create the physical body that we inhabit temporarily. I'm talking about the eternal part of us, the part that connects us all, that we recognize in the face of the little child who trusts us to love him or her unconditionally. 

   As babies grow, we realize each one has a unique personality. Each has a mind and a soul, an ego and emotions. Many believe that everything we are comes into being at the moment of conception and starts to grow at that moment. Many others, including me, believe that we have lived before, and that each spirit enters a baby's body from another world, bringing with it a plan and a purpose for this particular life. 

   When my daughter was a newborn, I talked to her and asked if she remembered where she came from. If only she could have told me about it! By the time she could talk, she had of course forgotten. I'll probably ask my grandson the same questions, just because it's fun to wonder about. Someday, when we all return to that place, we'll discover that we really do all come from One Source - and we'll wonder what all the fighting was about in this world!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Experiencing Different Cultures

       Among the ways that we can increase our experience of oneness is to reach out to people from cultures and countries other than our own. There are lots of ways to do this, even for those of us who can't afford to travel.

     As a child, I collected pen pals and stamps from all over the world. I learned about the customs of Japan, England, Australia, and New Zealand, by writing to young people in these countries. We sent each other stamps, shells, and small gifts. I still have the bookmarks featuring Japanese architecture that Tatsuo sent me 45 years ago. Today, of course, I have Facebook friends all over the world, and it's even easier to share pictures and news now, although I do miss the thrill of finding envelopes with exotic stamps on them in my mailbox.

     Later, as an adult, I became a member of Amnesty International, and wrote letters to the heads of state in countries where citizens were tortured and imprisoned for their beliefs. Many years I have sent holiday cards to prisoners of conscience through Amnesty International. This is just one of the many opportunities we have to connect with people who are suffering around the world. 

     When my children were young, we introduced them to people from other lands by inviting exchange students into our home. Our kids enjoyed playing with college students from Germany and Japan when they came to our house for dinner. 

Dinner with our German friends
     When Vera was in 8th grade, we hosted a Japanese exchange student for three months. Yuu, who was four years older, shared a room with Vera and taught us a lot about Japanese culture. Yuu taught the kids how to make origami creations, and she showed me how to make sushi. She told us about the custom of inviting teachers to your home and offering them cake - which the teachers always refuse. After the teacher leaves, the family eats the cake by themselves! 

     Yuu learned some things from us, too, like showing affection with hugs. In Japan, family members show their love for each other with bows. Sometimes they just bow with their eyes. I think Yuu enjoyed the warmth of our hugs, though - especially when we found her after she got lost on a walk in my sister's North Carolina neighborhood!

     Yuu brought us many gifts from Japan to remember her by. We also like to decorate our home with crafts from other countries - some of which we have purchased from fair trade organizations such as SERRV and Ten Thousand Villages

Haitian artisans made this Tree of Life from 55-gallon drums.
     We purchased this metal Tree of Life from Ten Thousand Villages to hang over our kitchen sink - because it's water-proof - and also beautiful! It is just one of the pieces of multi-cultural art that adorn our home, helping us to feel just a bit more of a connection with some of the different people we share this earth home with.