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View Diary: On Raising Human Beings (38 comments)

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  •  Lovely tribute (1+ / 0-)
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    pragmaticidealist

    To your parents.

    I was blessed with amazing parents as well, who moved with their four young children to South Korea in 1960 where they worked as medical missionaries (my dad was a doctor).

    That might sound like a pretty good role model, but the reality was that in the 1960s, to my parents' dismay, missionaries lived on enclosed compounds in two- and three-storey brick Western-style houses, and in the summer retreated to an all-white (except for servants and guests) beach. So it was quite possible to be raised in an isolated American community with a white American sense of entitlement and superiority and an exaggerated sense of being the Great White Hope.

    What my parents did next was what made the difference: While we were still on the mission compound during their language school training, they immediately made friends with their Korean teachers and invited them over for musical evenings in our home. After one summer at the missionary beach, we spent subsequent summers vacationing with Korean friends, camping on remote beaches and in the mountains, only showing up at the mission beach for the mandatory annual meeting (where we stayed on the Korean beach side). And as soon as they could, they convinced the reluctant mission to let us move into a Korean home, where we were the learners and our colleagues, friends and extended Korean family were comfortable.

    None of this was done with a sense of self-righteousness or judgment (though it was sometimes taken that way), but out of my parents desire to live with the people in whose country we were living as guests.

    I've reaped such extraordinary, lifelong benefits from their example, from the ability to speak conversational Korean to the knowledge that we are all one human family.

    And the best legacy of all, I believe, was the restless, irresistible pull to explore differences, and to try to understand and to find ways to shift anything that kept me from seeing a member of my own family in the eyes of another.

    AND, as you note in your Disclaimer, none of this kept me from absorbing my own brand of mostly unconscious Whiteness. Fabulous parenting is a great gift, but it is not an inoculation against socialization along racial lines. There is plenty that gets in the way of seeing ourselves in, say, young black men, and there is lots of work to be done to reclaim our full humanity.

    "Diversity is, in action, the sometimes painful awareness that other people, other races, other voices, other habits of mind have as much integrity of being, as much claim on the world as you do." William Chase

    by Maine Islander on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 10:56:23 AM PST

    •  What an extraordinary way to grow up (0+ / 0-)

      And what extraordinary wisdom and humility your parents must have had to work so hard to give it to you.

      I've always been puzzled by people who move to another country and then seek out (or fall into) an enclave of expat Americans with whom they spend most, if not all, of their time. What's the point of going if, for all intents and purposes, you're staying home?

      Your parents showed remarkable generosity, first by choosing to become a medical missionary family, and then by firmly (but gently, from your description) ensuring that they and the family actually lived among the people they were there to work beside and serve. Thanks for telling the story!

      "Do it in the name of Heaven; you can justify it in the end..." - Dennis Lambert & Brian Potter

      by pragmaticidealist on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 11:13:41 AM PST

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      •  Thanks for the invitation (1+ / 0-)
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        pragmaticidealist

        There was no sense that they, or we as a family, were sacrificing anything, but that they were truly, passionately, adventurously following their dreams and their vision of how they wanted the world to be.

        "Diversity is, in action, the sometimes painful awareness that other people, other races, other voices, other habits of mind have as much integrity of being, as much claim on the world as you do." William Chase

        by Maine Islander on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 11:54:32 AM PST

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