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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

CNN Heroes 2012

I learned today about the 10 CNN Heroes finalists.  One of my Colombian groups was advertising the name of one finalist since she is Colombian.  Her name is Catalina Escobar and she is helping young single mothers and their kids in the most depressed areas around the city of Cartagena, Colombia.

When I first read this story, I really felt compelled to do something. So this post is my way of spreading the word.  This real life hero is from my native Colombia. With courage and determination, she is leading a crusade to help children in need around Cartagena.  As a mom, that speaks to my heart.

Mr. G and I had our Colombian honeymoon (Yes, we also had an American one because we like to be fair and inclusive like that) in Cartagena back in 2006. The beauty of the place is undeniably breathtaking, and its storied history is enthralling and thought-provoking. It is equally astonishing that, in a city with world-class hotels, casinos, and stores, you can find yourself face to face with crushing poverty.

Being a tourist destination hasn't helped Cartagena much. In fact, it has made matters worse in many respects. Prostitution is rampant (Remember news earlier this year stemming from President Obama's visit), and the rate of teenage pregnancy is among the highest in the country.

I found the story about Catalina Escobar's work and her foundation very inspiring. But, in all honesty and fairness, every single one of the 10 finalist has a wonderful tale full of compassion, selflessness, persistence, and love for our fellow humans in need.

Why don't you go here and cast your vote?  Read the finalists' stories.  Be inspired, be humbled, and be amazed like I was. In the view of our past presidential election, it occurs to me that we need less politicians and more men and woman like these. Can I just have that for Christmas?

Friday, November 2, 2012

The World in Brown and Blond

There has never been any doubt in my mind that one of the values I want to stress upon my son is looking beyond social labels. I want him to look at people as people. And I really really want to delay the time when he has to face preconceived notions about different social groups.
I also make race a non-issue in our daily life. Just not important or worth mentioning.

A few months ago my little one surprised me when He said: "Mom, I am blond , but Adam* at school is Brown". It caught me off guard. And here is the conversation that followed:

Me: " Yes he is. He has a different skin color, because God loves colors. He created the rainbow, and all the flowers, and He gives humans different colors, because He loves to see a rainbow of people when He looks down from heaven."

S: " Yeah, You are blond too. But you have brown eyes. And Daddy and me are blond and we both have Blue eyes"

Me:" Really? I like to think of me as a little blond and a little brown. I think I have both colors mixed in me." ( I then showed him my arm next to his)

S: "No Mom. You are blond with black hair and brown eyes. I don't have blond color here in these crayons. So I'm going to draw you orange"

Me: "That sounds good. I think orange would be good for me. I don't have to be blond."

Well, obviously for him his friend at school is brown as Lightning McQueen is Red and Thomas the Train is blue. He is just trying to describe his world the best he can and he looks for differences. But the exchange got me thinking. It came to show me that ignoring certain issues can be just as damaging. This child has never been told at home that people come in different colors, yet he notices the variations. Maybe I should have a strategy to address racial differences in a positive way. Because if I don't I'm sure there will be plenty of people and situations out there giving my child the wrong messages.

This morning Sam told me he wanted to invite his favorite friends from school home and asked me to try to contact their parents to set a play date. He said he wanted to invite Ellie, Adam and Ben*. And he added: "Adam has different skin than mine, but we are good friends". I said: "Of course honey! We choose friends for how well we play with them. Not for their skin color"

I hope he is getting the message. I know he will ultimately get it first and foremost by the way I act and react to people and situations.

How do you have (or not) the race conversation at home? What do you tell your kids about it? At what age did they start asking or noticing racial differences?

* I changed the kids names, since their parents don't know about them being mentioned in this blog.