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Street child or rich kid? Communist or capitalist? Living in war torn terror or an American life of pleasure?
We landed in Cuba last month and the scene at the old dilapidated airport is straight out of the movies. Hundreds of happy Cuban's are waiting to greet loved ones. Many are seeing relatives for the first time in many years. Kids are eagerly awaiting the gifts that come from America. 1950's cars wait to transport people. Gavin went to change money in a line that was 40 people long while the kids and I surveyed the scene!
I repeated my mantra to the kids "Do you know how lucky you are? A simple twist of fate and you could be a street kid instead of a privileged child visiting your 35th country". Had they be born another color, another time period, wrong side of the tracks or to parents without education their worlds could be so different.
My kids are truly privileged not just to see the world but to learn about so many cultures, peoples and politics. Temira at age 13 has visited 34 countries and she can tell you about the Cuban missile crises, the peace agreement with FARC and the Colombian government, the tragic situation of Hindu widows, the difference between the Spanish and Portuguese inquisition or who the perpetrators were in the Bosnian genocide.
After spending a morning at the Revolutionary Museum that documents the Cuban revolution, we had a family discussion at lunch about how the museum gave Gavin and I such a different perspective of Fidel Castro and Cuba. When I was a kid growing up in South Africa, she was engaged in a conflict with Angola, a country that was supported by Cuba who sent hundreds of thousands of soldiers. Army conscription was compulsory for South African males, young men were engaged in real conflict and the country repeatedly condemned Cuba in the news. Later in life we moved to the US where Cuba was a frequent news item but for different reasons. My image and understanding of the country was shaped by these experiences. Until this visit when I saw the country and history with a new set of eyes. While this is not the usual summer lunch time discussion with your teenagers it is an amazing opportunity to engage them in a thoughtful discussion. An opportunity to really broaden their minds. Towards the end of lunch Meron teased "Imma I know how lucky we are, just a twist of fate and we would not have these experiences."
Yes Meron this is a privilege and a responsibility to be a better citizen of the world. You have the skills to see the world from different perspectives. The ability to have empathy for different kinds of people and the opportunity to live each day appreciating the blessings in your life.
As we travel to yet another country and my children acquire the skills to think critically about life I hope that they realize their lives are, yes a twist of fate but most importantly they have the knowledge to understand that life is not about simply being lucky enough to have or do but about giving back and contributing to our world.