Gaining a New Perspective

This past Christmas, my younger son, Matthew, traveled to Ecuador to enjoy visiting a Latin American country and to celebrate the holidays with his girlfriend and her family, who have relatives living there. Each of my three children has traveled abroad more than once. My daughter, Susanna, holds the record, having visited a total of 15 countries in Europe, Central America, Asia, and the South Pacific, living and working in two of them. She discovered her passion for encountering new cultures and making friends from other countries while she was a student at McGill University in Canada, gaining the perspective of a foreign student by becoming one herself.

I’m very grateful that my children have been able to travel to other parts of the world and to experience and appreciate firsthand the differences between cultures. I know that they are not alone in this desire to travel, as I enjoy hearing from my friends discussing their own children’s travels, from our interns here at the Journal, and from young people at my meeting about the many educational and service opportunities that young people are pursuing abroad. Most of these youth are not wealthy by U.S. standards. Those I know work very hard to save the money for their trips and to find ways to travel inexpensively so that they may have the experience of seeing the world and meeting its peoples. I find real hope in this increased desire to reach out beyond our borders that seems to be affecting more young people today than ever.

In this issue Amelia Duffy-Tumaz, a young adult Friend from Green Street Meeting in Philadelphia, offers an extended reflection in "Keeping It Simple" (p.6) on her time spent in Senegal as a researcher into the effects of microfinance on the lives of village women. Education is a two-way process, and in this case, the researcher came to conclusions that upended her assumptions acquired in North American classrooms: "Packing my bags to return to Dakar a few weeks later, I came across a photo. . . that reminded me of the greatness of the lessons I would carry home with me. The individualized paradigm of income with which I had arrived here had obscured the villagers’ essential lesson; their wealth was not in the coins in their pockets. Rather it was contained in their knowledge of what it meant to be a team player." Amelia Duffy-Tumaz experienced firsthand how women in impoverished conditions support each other so that all may survive, and even thrive. They are rich in social capital far beyond her expectations. Such knowledge points to deficits in our own ways of doing things, and begins to build a roadmap for us of ways to improve our own culture, if we are open to that learning.

Newton Garver, in his Viewpoint article, "FWCC and Affluent and Impoverished Friends" on p.4, reflects on similar economic disparities, not from the point of view of economic development, but rather regarding how these disparities are now affecting communication and interaction among the worldwide body of the Religious Society of Friends. Through his own travel to Bolivia during the past nine years, he has come to deeply appreciate how much mobility and face-to-face interactions influence our ability to know and appreciate other Friends across our cultural divides, and he is concerned that those who live in economically marginalized situations not be barred from engaging with and ministering to those of us who live in affluent circumstances. I share his perspective that we have much to learn from each other. I believe that finding ways to bring us together to know each other in the Spirit, and in person, is important not just to Friends, but to the future of humanity, as we enter an era of increasing scarcity, and the need for ever more generosity of spirit. We in North America have much to learn from those in "developing" countries.