Today, we were in an Amish horse-drawn buggy with an Amish man called Levi.
Levi was taking us on a buggy tour of Amish farms and was a fascinating tour-guide. He showed us how Amish families live completely off the grid… he showed us how they feed and milk the cattle… how they prepare food for the cattle to eat… what they do with the milk… how they heat and light their homes (without electricity)… how they train their horses… what kinds of horses are used for pulling buggies… what kind of mules are used for pulling farm equipment… (and so much more!)
At one stage, during the journey… as Levi steered Junior (the huge horse) down a narrow lane… he turned to us and asked about Morgan and Joah’s schooling.
“Where do your kids go to school?”, he asked.
“This is school!”, Nick and I replied.
Levi smiled warmly and said: “Ah yes… it is. It is”.
We wanted the kids to learn about the Amish for a couple of reasons:
- I want our kids to understand that just because people live differently… and believe differently… they are still human, still valuable… and their place in the world is just as important as ours.
- I believe that a lot of the problems we see in the world… wars, religious clashes, territorial fighting… has much to do with fear. We fear what we don’t know. We fear the people we don’t know. We fear those who are *different*. I don’t want my kids to fear “the Other”. Ever.
- I want my children to understand that a lot of people believe different things about God. I may – or may not – agree with what many people have to say on the topic of God. But regardless of my beliefs, I respect the rights of others to live and believe as they choose.
One of the reasons why I love travelling with my kids – is because I believe that life and journeys have a way of demonstrating some important truths…
- The world is a very big place. The world does not revolve around our home-town. In fact, our home-town is pretty small and minuscule in the big scheme of things.
- Our country, South Africa… although an interesting and diverse place to explore (and we have!) – is still just a tiny piece of the Big Picture. There are many other nations – and they are all very different to South Africa. The world does not revolve around South Africa!
- There are lots of different people who share this planet with us. There are many different cultures, belief-systems and religions. Many people look different to us… dress differently… eat different kinds of food… and believe different things. This is fine! – and not only is it fine, it’s wonderful! Diversity is a beautiful, wonderful thing… the world would be an awful place if we were all the same.
- There are people who are very rich… and there are people who are very poor. Nonetheless – their shared humanity makes them equal. Wealth (or lack thereof) does not determine their value (or ours). I believe – firmly – in the idea that we are all created equal. No matter how much money we have (or not)… no matter whether we’re male or female… no matter our sexuality… no matter our race, religion or cultural status…. just by virtue of the fact that we are all human – makes us equal in worth or value – to the next human. I never want my kids to feel “less than” somebody who is very wealthy or famous (or whatever)… and I never want my kids to feel “more than” somebody who is poor… or dirty… or ill… or illiterate (or whatever)…
- I want my kids to understand and practice gratitude. I want them to realise how fortunate they are (to be able to live and travel in the way they do).
- I want my children to be exposed to the harsh stuff too (which is why – when we’re involved in community work in some very poor areas… we take our kids with!). I want them to understand how many other people live – and that, for many people, life is tough… and harsh… and many children do not have the luxuries (and the food and the toys) that our kids enjoy. I want my kids to appreciate what they have.
- I want my children to be empathisers. And initiators… and problem-solvers… and solution-finders… and the types of people who QUESTION the Great Injustices of this planet – and who use their own brains to start imagining potential solutions…
- I want them to (always!) QUESTION. Question the Injustices. Question the shit that just doesn’t make sense! Question the authorities. Question God. Question the people who believe they know everything about God. Question the status quo. Question the experts. Question the power-holders. Question the conformity. Question the media. Question stupid rules. Question the expectations placed upon their lives by others (and yes – that includes us too!)…
It is hugely important for us… to raise Thinkers and DO’ers. Not conform-to-the-norm’ers… dutifully following-the-flock and obeying-all-the-rules that other people have laid out…
I don’t want them to “survive”… or “make-do”… or “get-by”…
I want them to thrive! I want them to discover what makes them tick… what makes them come alive – and then to work hard – and discover ways to earn a living whilst doing what they LOVE.
And yes… I want them to discover the value of work. I want them to know that Good-Things-come-to-those-who-DO… (not those who wait!)… Waiting-for-your-life-to-change is a passive exercise in wishful thinking. Your bones will set to stone… your muscles will turn to flab… and your brain will turn to mush… if all you do is wait, wait, wait….
Good Things come to those who DO!
I have always known this to be true!
(Hey! I should write and illustrate a Dr Seuss-type poem!)….
I want my kids to pursue the life they want… to walk… (even if it’s just baby-step by baby-step)… but, at least to move forward towards their goals… whatever their goals may be.
But mostly, I want my kids to be happy and fulfilled in their work and in their lives. I want them to actively participate in the Great Solutions for this planet… and for humanity as a whole. I want them to be bridge-crossers… connectors… empathisers… problem-solvers… people who will be remembered for MORE than just existing and consuming and surviving-for-a-time.
And… I guess… I want that for me too.