The Beekeeper

January now officially kicks each new year off with National Human Trafficking Awareness Month! And as such, it seems like appropriate a time as ever to catch up on some book reviews, namely “The Beekeeper”.

Photo by Akira Hojo on Unsplash

This book is a true story, and one filled with true horrors. With that being said, I want to share a quote from a book called “Slave Stealers” by Tim Ballard before getting into this.

“Do you have children, Tim?”

“Yes,” I responded, my eyes matching the intensity I was reading in his.

“Then let me ask you something….” He hesitated. He must have known the question was somewhat cruel. But he went forward with it anyway.

“Could you get in bed and sleep at night, knowing that one of your children’s beds was empty?”I knew the answer was no, but I couldn’t get the word out, as instant tears and emotion blocked my ability to vocalize. I just shook my head.

“Slave Stealers”, pg 56, Tim Ballard

Books like this can be hard to digest, but Tim Ballard argues that if we don’t learn how to make it personal- imagining our own children and recognizing that the victims are real children of other heartbroken parents – and act as if our own families and loved ones were on the line, then this criminal market will never end. So in the parts when your heart and tear ducts start to swell at the same rate, and you think you’d rather just not finish, consider for a minute why you feel that way and what you can do. It might just be a defining moment in the start to someone’s rescue.

“The Beekeeper” is based on true stories from Abdullah Shrem, a beekeeper working to help liberate Yazidi women kidnapped by Daesh (aka ISIS), who through many means and people escape. He tells their stories in hopes of bringing light to the problem and to “rally the troops,” so to speak, against ISIS.

But for all the horrors, this book is very interestingly written, leaving no words to the author alone, but always quoting verbatim the conversations she had with the beekeeper and others involved in the rescues or being rescued.

If you’d like to learn more about the author and Abdullah Shrem (the beekeeper), then you can also check out this PBS News Hour Report and interview with her!

So You Think You Can Master The Cyrillic Alphabet?

I’m a firm believer that anyone can learn a second (or more) language. But how many of you studied a language for so many years through high school and/or college only to totally feel useless at it when you meet a native speaker? Yeah, thanks for nothing, Spanish! Am I right?

Well, after a year and a half in Russia, followed by a minor in the language, I took a two year hiatus from ever speaking it out loud. Turns out, anyone can also forget important aspects of a language. When I speak, I sound like I don’t even know what a verb declension is now. But I promise I really do read and listen and write fairly well still! And yet, this week I was entertained to realize that I had no idea what the ABC song sounds like in Russian, let alone the order of the letters in the Cyrillic alphabet! You’re all thinking I’m full of it. I know. I mean, I guess I had a general idea of where all the letters went based on my constant dictionary searches, but I had a tabbed dictionary, so that’s about all the alphabet study I ever did.

Luckily for me, having a toddler gives me a chance to review all my basics and start from the beginning again! I’m super excited to introduce him to Russian, and I am happy to accept any advice, resources, or encouragement you have! This week we’re off to a great start!

Visit my store to find some awesome Russian resources!
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Color-Me-Culturally-Confident

We watched the Baby Einstein’s Language Nursery, which I used (for myself, because I love Baby Einstein) to learn the alphabet song! I have spent the past three days singing the song while we did our normal things. And while the boys napped, I’ve been making some flashcards. Yesterday was the first time Trey and I actually went through the flashcards a couple of times, arguing over whether I was holding a shark or an акула, a horse or a лошадь, and so on.

Now, drumroll for Trey, please!

When Tyler came home last night, he drug my attention to Trey, who was sitting at the table trying to sing the Russian ABC song to himself! That was a proud mom moment. He’s such a fast little learner!

So, if you think it’s your time to learn (or relearn) Russian, I’m putting together tons of simple activities to help along the way! Flashcards, coloring sheets, little stories and printable activities, and access to recordings of my own practices (like this one below -yikes)! This is just my very first portion of what I have lined up, so head over to my store at Teachers Pay Teachers to check it out, and please share it with anyone who might also want to learn or teach Russian!

Yikes! That is rough, but every practice counts! Get these flashcards for yourself at
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Color-Me-Culturally-Confident.

I’m always working on different kinds of resources, so if you have ideas of things you want, send me an idea! And if you send me a really great idea, I’ll make you one for free before putting it on my store! So think about what you and your kids are interested in learning about different languages, countries, religions, and people! I’d love to hear what you have in mind!

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How Are Different Cultural Influences Affecting Your Language?

I recently mentioned a conversation I had with one of my grandmas about why I have this blog. (If you missed it, you can check it out by clicking here.) In the same lunch conversation, she also got me questioning this – how are different cultural influences affecting my language? I really need to talk to my grandmas more! Aren’t they the best?

Anyways, it all started with my mom and I sharing a long-standing family joke with Grandma. You see, I’ve known my husband since just before our senior year of high school – almost ten years now! And like any good cliche, it was only after we got married that he started to realize some weird things about me. Like how I wouldn’t pick up a bar of soap if it fell in the sink while washing my hands. Or how I always bought wayyyy more vegetables than meat (crazy, right? haha). But the most deeply ingrained thing that has remained throughout our marriage, and I really can’t stop, is my apparently “make-believe” vocabulary.

And now that I’m writing about this, of course, my husband and I can’t think of any of the tons of words or phrases I’ve said that he’s made me stop to explain, except for the two that came up when I was talking to my grandma. Maybe that means he’s finally getting used to them?

So let me rewind a bit and just share the gist of the conversation for some context:

Me: Grandma, do you know what I mean when I say “kiki”? Is that something you say, or where did we get that word from?

*Mom laughs, knowing where this is going, which raised Grandma’s eyebrows.*

Grandma: Yeah, of course. *looks confused as to why I’d ask such a dumb question.”

Mom *jumping in to help explain*: Apparently a lot of the words we say aren’t normal words, and Tyler doesn’t understand them. We tell Tyler that we’re going to make him a Smith Dictionary.

*Grandma still seems skeptical that anyone would not know what “kiki” means, and repeats the word out loud to herself multiple times*

Grandma: Well, then, it must be a Native American word! Maybe Navajo or Hopi. You know Grandpa spoke so many different languages, I can’t keep track!

This was a better response than I could have ever imagined – “it must be a Native American word” – and I immediately knew that I was stealing that as my excuse for the rest of my life! Oh, sorry. That didn’t make sense? It must be one of my great-grandfather’s Navajo terms the family just uses now. Who could even call my bluff?! (Okay, yeah, a few of my friends might be reading this who actually could call my bluff, but still.)

For further context, “kiki” means (in my family) gross/dirty, as in, “Don’t touch that! It’s kiki!” And my great-grandfather was one of the very earliest traders to mingle and trade with many Native American tribes, like the Navajo and Hopi. So my grandma’s statement isn’t at all far fetched, and there really are quite a few things that have passed down through the family because of him. However, I haven’t been able to figure out if he is the actual source of why our family uses this word.

As my mom, grandma and I joked about what had just been said and tried to think of other examples of things we say that people outside our family don’t understand, my mom brought up that everyone looks at her funny when she offers to “tend [their] kids”. That made me look at her funny. Now I was the one confused as to why anyone would think that was a weird saying. I thought it was totally normal to say. So I came home and asked Tyler about it. Sure enough, he asked me, “Well, it depends. Are you a shepherd? You tend a flock, not a child.” And I guess a “kid” is technically a baby goat, so it does make sense that way, but that’s not how my mom has taught me to use the phrase.

Again, I learned who to blame for my messed up vocabulary – this time my Scottish granny, who came to America with her own basket full of fun phrases. My mom explained that she knew it was something Granny had always said, but that she’d just never realized until adulthood that it wasn’t a very American thing to say. And another generation later, here she has been leading me to believe it’s a normal thing to say too! One of these days maybe we’ll actually publish the “Smith Family Dictionary” and detail exactly where all of our seemingly out-of-place sayings come from.

The Answer

So that was a really long story all to set the scene and let you know why I was even pondering such a question. But does my question – how do different cultural influences affect our language? – actually have an answer that I can just cut to already? Yes, it actually has quite a few. But first, I’d like to take one more detour and share my favorite resource as I was perusing the internet for ideas I may have missed in relation to answering this question, and hope that if you watch it, you’ll better appreciate what answer I offer next. TED talks. Yup, ted.com has a whole playlist on their website dedicated to speakers who have addressed the evolution of language. Check it out here:

TED talks about the evolution of language

Or just skip below to my very favorite one by the dictionary-maker, Erin McKean:

There are so many things that affect our language! What I have illustrated above in my story is what Erin describes as “robbing”. Technically, as she explains, people usually say that we “borrow” words from other languages, but it’s just thievery. My family has stolen many words from other languages simply because many members of my family have spoken different languages, or at least had a different dialect of English growing up. This is the case in many homes. As an English speaker, this is such a large part of our accepted language, that it hardly phases people usually.

Then there are words that are real words of your very own tongue and language, but we start to put them into the wrong form of speech to get our point across. My husband would say that the very most obscene word that my mother and I have created in this way is “smarticles”. We’ve taken the adjective – smart – and evolved it into personifying these tangible-like things from which my son’s intelligence spouts. It’s also a compound word (smart+particles), but that hadn’t been our intention. It just sounded right, ya know. It said what we needed it to say. And English allows us to do that! I mean, when you hear that – “smarticles” – don’t you just picture a ball pit of knowledge being picked apart by messy toddlers? If so, then we did our job well in creating that word, because that’s what we mean. My son’s head is just chock full of smarticles.

Our culture also affects our communication in much broader ways. In some cultures, small talk is uncomfortable and almost forbidden between strangers. In others places worldwide, there seems to be no limit to what a random passenger on the bus might ask you! I would say I live somewhere in the middle of these two worlds, where it’s okay to break the ice when you’re stuck near someone but you shouldn’t get too crazy with your topics and questions. So I was shocked this week to read a FaceBook post in a group of women from around the world highlighting a cultural perspective different from my own. She explained that she was looking for help in a work situation (the focus of this particular group) where a supervisor was continually asking her uncomfortable questions on business trips. My mind immediately filled in the blanks on what I assumed she meant, and I was going to just skip by, but then I saw in quotations one of the “inappropriate” questions constantly asked was simply, “What did you do last night?” Now, I suppose that depending on the way a person asked this, it might make me feel awkward, if they were really trying to imply that they wanted to hear something juicy. But this wasn’t the case. In fact, the woman clarified that she recognized the supervisor was just trying to make friendly small talk, but felt like that specific question among others was unprofessional and private. WOW! I would have never even considered this to be an off-limits topic. To me, that is such a normal question if I’m going to be traveling with someone on an overnight or weeklong trip! But her foreign and family culture had taught her to be much more private and respectful of acquaintances’ personal time. This is just one recent example of cultural etiquette in our communication.

You could extend this communication etiquette to also include body language and other factors. In America, we can generally be very loud, openly show a ton of expression, and be easily excited in public settings. This is a stereotype for many islander nations as well. It’s okay to see your friend and run up to them, or yell a greeting, and be rather boisterous about the thrilling coincidence of it all. Nobody will care too much. Buuuut go to Eastern Europe and everyone on the street will give you a sideways glance for acting this same way. You will definitely feel like you’ve disturbed the peace with your behavior. More than once while living in Russia I had people ask me before I even opened my mouth if I was American. I would laugh and ask them how they knew, and you know what I was told multiple times? It was something to the effect of, “You draw attention to yourself, laughing and talking down the street, saying ‘hi’ to everyone.” Now, verbally acknowledging everyone you pass is really weird here in Phoenix too, I’d say, but smiling and nodding their way isn’t. In Russia, it usually was.

I could continue, but I’ll wrap up here for now while you process, come up with your own answers to the question, and then we can talk about it more later. I’ll just share this last thing about social etiquette. In relationship to greeting everyone kindly, I was once encouraged to ask myself, “When we’re all in Heaven, do you think we’re going to walk around with our heads down, frowning and acting like passerby don’t exist?? No way! We’re going to be so excited to be where we are, surrounded by friends, family and other great people, and we’re going to want to look them all in the eye and share our joy!” Why wait til Heaven though, right? Be the start to a new, more joyful, inclusive and friendly culture now!

Now I’d love to hear your responses to the question. How have cultural influences around you affected your language? Have you ever said something perfectly normal to you that confused everyone else in the room? Have you ever moved to a new place and felt uncomfortable by the way other people talked differently? I’d love to hear about it!

If you enjoyed this post, or would like to share have your thoughts on the topic shared, comment at the very bottom of this page, or sign up for my newsletter and gain VIP access to a folder of freebies for families! I would love all of your input!

“Slave Stealers” Book Review for Human Trafficking Awareness Month!

Scroll to the end of the page for recommendations on where to go this January to participate in Human Trafficking Awareness Month!

After finishing my first post about what O.U.R. does, I did what every independent adult does and made the daily phone call to my mom to chat. (If you haven’t read it, check out this post.) She told me about a recent trip she’d made with my 17-year-old brother to In-N-Out Burger. Being 17, “sex” is still a decently uncomfortable word that you hear all the time, but definitely don’t say around your parents unless you have a real question. So when he lifted his burger off the tray to see the words “CHILD SEX TRAFFICKING” mixed in with some other characters, he was probably thinking, “I’m just gonna pretend I didn’t see that or know what it means..” We all know the feeling, right? I’m just gonna pretend I didn’t see that so it doesn’t become a bigger thing than it needs to be..

My mom said it even surprised her some. I mean those are huge trigger words for a parent, especially when you think you’re just out for a shake and fries. Then BAM. “CHILD SEX TRAFFICKING” gets thrown in your face with a list of stats, things to look for, and ways to try to prevent it. That burger stop just got real deep real quick.

And I just have to say – way to go In-N-Out! (Click here or on the blue link above to see how In-N-Out is joining the fight through donations this month!)

And then, of course, we also need to give a quick shoutout to Arizona for blasting the highways with this phone number this month:

By shining a spotlight on the dark truth that such evil things are happening, In-N-Out and these road signs can really make a difference to someone. You can make a difference.

Knowledge. Is. Power!

If we can do nothing else, we can certainly still spread the knowledge about what is happening. Learn what and where the issues are, and then tell someone else about it. I’d bet a lot of money that no kidnapper stepping into one of those In-N-Out locations with malicious intentions will carry out their plans when they hear the mother and her athletic teenage son at the next table talking about what it means to keep yourself and others safe from traffickers.

I have kind of begun to imagine traffickers as vampires. They can’t even stand the light anymore. Cowards and weak, except that they’re so darn sneaky and scary. They need the darkness to function, and cower and shrivel away under the sun.

Oh, if only! Be a light anyway!

Now, The Book Report

In Tim Ballard’s latest book, “Slave Stealers“, he shares overwhelming examples of the brightest, yet most abused souls that lit the way to become steadfast beacons of freedom. The theme of the book sheds light on how to join the liberators. Every chapter left me in awe and reflection. Most chapters left me pausing to fight tears that I don’t believe even pregnancy hormones can be blamed for. And the book as a whole has left me tormented with a need to do something.

So here I am, a fresh stack of books about slavery from the library and five more internet tabs open trying to decide where to begin with all this self-assigned studying. All to tell you, my small audience, that some victim out there needs you to act for their best outcome. I know this writing thing isn’t nearly enough, but look at what Frederick Douglass accomplished in writing! So, for me, it is at least a start to feel committed to the cause by writing about it and enlisting others’ attention. Let me share a few major points, doctrines almost, that really stood out in “Slave Stealers”.

1. What is slavery?

This is important to understand up front because it can become problematic to make nonpersonal, general comparisons between historical slavery, often called the transatlantic trade, and modern-day slavery. Though both forms of abuse should certainly be called slavery (as there is no other word for what happened then and what is happening now), it’s important to distinguish between the two evils. For there are marked differences between the two. We must be careful to preserve the integrity of the stories of the old and the new slavery and to protect each story and those players in it.

“Slave Stealers”, pg 4, Tim Ballard.

What is the old slavery then?

The transatlantic trade we’re familiar with, right? We study it in school. As Ballard also reviews and further explains in “Slave Stealers”, it was the open, unmasked, accepted and legally protected sale and trade of humans. The slavery was accounted for by witnesses, signatures, state-recorded money exchanges, and overall impossible to escape because any “illegal freedom” would have resulted in harsh punishment, even on the family of the runaway. And that was the thing – their freedom was considered illegal! How could they ever hope to be their own person anywhere they went? I feel like Tim Ballard answers and elaborates on all these things superbly.

So what is the new/modern slavery?

Well, through a lot of trial and error, the world is coming to unite in and implement the truth that freedom cannot be a legal or monetary thing, but a God-given right. Legally, in the US and most countries, we are now protected against the pains of slavery. The government promises to try to back us and rescue us in situations where our freedom is at stake. This means that when slavery happens now it is hidden, undocumented, and done under the guise of something else. This makes it difficult to escape, because while people now truly want to free any and all slaves today, and sympathize with the horror of the situation, how can we begin to find them? It’s a different kind of dark and seemingly hopeless trap. Hopeless except for people, like the O.U.R. operators, who are making the rescues happen and finding the children in despair.

2. We need to make it personal.

“Do you have children, Tim?”

“Yes,” I responded, my eyes matching the intensity I was reading in his.

“Then let me ask you something….” He hesitated. He must have known the question was somewhat cruel. But he went forward with it anyway. “Could you get in bed and sleep at night, knowing that one of your children’s beds was empty?”

I knew the answer was no, but I couldn’t get the word out, as instant tears and emotion blocked my ability to vocalize. I just shook my head.

“Slave Stealers,” pg 56, Tim Ballard

The evolution of Tim Ballard’s response to this question, and the decisions he made on how to cope with the answer are beyond inspiring in this novel. I think we will all absolutely understand the desire he expresses at first to disassociate ourselves from the problem and people involved. My mother in law actually just told me this week that some of her friends or acquaintances had turned down the opportunity to go to a weekend conference for women, because they are emotionally not able to sit through his talks – and of course, he would be speaking. Ladies, I 100% understand. I ugly cry every time. But I’m also filled with incomparable hope and determination to act that you just cannot get from sitting cozy at home. The courage and power he has to be able to embrace and love the world as it is and the dangers it presents to his children is amazing! So maybe ignorance would be bliss, but knowledge is power. And as we really try to make it personal, to connect with and deeply love and mourn for those that are victims, we will find our own ways to know how to hope and help and love and give in ways that can liberate someone.

3. “There is magic in service.”

“Slave Stealers,” pg 238, Tim Ballard

This just builds upon the last point. As we feel the issue become personal and grow a feeling to need to act and join the rescue in some way, Tim Ballard assures us that we will find ourselves serving more. When you get to this point in the book, everything seems to come together perfectly in those five simple words. The way that each slave he describes became the conqueror was through service – to a brother, children, friends, strangers. In their own depths of despair, they gave to others. They gave up their means of passage, some food, some friendship, some fear, whatever another person needed more right then. It’s not just shadows of people drifting in this underground affair. These are what I call spiritual giants!

I often think that for me this image of broken down, starving people is an easy way I disassociate myself from the issue. Whether it’s the reality or not – which it is – I just don’t know anyone physically at that point, so I struggle to truly imagine the horrors it takes to get there. Therefore, I don’t make it personal or feel driven to act in the same way. They are just these unreal ghosts of people on the TV ads to me. It’s sad, but honest.

That’s one thing I have started to change in my small perspective of slavery while following O.U.R. and Tim Ballard’s stories. I now believe that some of the strongest souls we could ever imagine are waiting to be rescued! The kinds of people we want to have influencing our politics, media, literature, and own families are praying for us to come. The kinds of children that grow up to be liberators and inspirations themselves are out there, and isn’t that how we would see our own children and friends? Don’t we hope that if anything ever happened to a loved one, that all their strongest traits and beliefs would get them through it? So, while these children are sure to need special recovery and treatment of every kind, they are also carrying around something powerful to have made it out at all, and we would do well to fight to bring out the best in them for others to see. We would do well to remember the potential we can give back to them. Really, we should treat everyone this way and serve a little more, because, well, there is magic in service.

This book is truly inspiring. I hope that as you read, something in your understanding or perspective of human trafficking is shook like I was. I would love to hear your thoughts and feelings! Or to talk about ideas and ways that you might be able to help.

For the next few days til the end of January, here are just a few of the places you can go online to make a donation that will make a difference, or just to learn more:

http://www.in-n-out.com/

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https://ourrescue.org/?gclid=Cj0KCQiAvqDiBRDAARIsADWh5TfBwYxX4UCNJPpTZMZ8QLGgTE00JZ0xtlnyukqb893rTnq3eclMYREaAmGtEALw_wcB
ALL DONATIONS WILL BE MATCHED BY THE MALOUF FOUNDATION THROUGH JANUARY! Have my donation doubled? Yes, please!

https://malouffoundation.org/
https://theguardiangroup.org/january-2019/?gclid=Cj0KCQiAvqDiBRDAARIsADWh5TcQ0mDMHEiLspBehYo0ydS-cOHZ5VhMUr10YWXEj1nTFwyr_mtYpNgaAk7IEALw_wcB
If you are in Oregon, take a look at their free self defense classes and trainings.
If you’re not from Oregon, they are offering everyone a free Webinar through January on the topic of human trafficking awareness.

What will you bring to the table to help fight human trafficking? What ideas can you share to help others spread the word? Don’t know, but want more inspiration? Sign up for my newsletter below!

What is Culture?

I work for VIPKID, teaching English online to children ages 4-15 from China. When we discuss the question of “What is culture?” with them, the curriculum’s answer is: “Culture is art, food, music, sports, celebrations and language.” This is a very simplified definition of a somewhat complex thing. Once we can list off those basic answers, then we have to ask ourselves things like, “But why are those (art, culture, music, food) so deeply ingrained in us – a nation, neighborhood, family, or religion? What is it about our traditions that makes them so hard to let go of? How is it that others, who don’t know us, can come to define us by our culture?” It’s a lot to process, I know. Usually we even find ourselves mingling in a small variety of cultures as we go throughout our daily or weekly responsibilities making this whole concept all the more confusing. While I clearly don’t have all the answers, hopefully I can shed a little light on the subject, and would love your input as well in this learning journey!

Have you ever found yourself in a group situation where everyone but you seemed to know how to act? For me, that’s about once a month, at least. You’re in good company. When you feel that way, it is probably because you have stepped into a new culture. It may be the Target Dollar Spot shopper culture, a religious culture, a class culture, or a family culture. Just recently I took my son to his first “Music Makers” class for toddlers offered at my husband’s grad school. All the little kids that had been going already seemed to know the songs, how to beat the sticks to the beat, when to dance and spin with the rattles, but Trey just clung to me, looking for some sort of sense and rules in all the chaos. This was a culture he was not familiar or comfortable with. All these rules and behaviors weren’t something that had been explained or practiced before, so he looked and felt out of place. Likewise, when I had my first Christmas with my husband’s family, I kept ruining the fun by forgetting to guess what was in my gifts before opening them. But, with time, practice, and observing others’ examples we all begin to find ways to fit or break the mold of our respective cultures.

According to The Hartman Group in Forbes Magazine, a wonderful read I enjoyed recently, “Through an ethnographic lens, it’s possible to observe how consumers craft unique identities through consumption. This has led us to observe that foods and beverages are bought for reasons far beyond just simple sustenance. Viewed culturally, food and beverage purchases can signal:

  • Who we are
  • Who we want to be
  • How we want others to see us
  • How we see the world”

I seriously love that they studied foodies and the food culture and how we all make food decisions. Sign me up to work for them! Or to be their study subject. The point is, there can even be cultures created entirely based around food! It doesn’t matter what the focus of the culture is, so long as the thing encourages us to consider or express the four points above: who we are, who we want to be, how we want others to see us, and how we see the world. If you don’t think that food can do that for you, then join me in binge-watching “The Final Table” on Netflix. Food is life for those chefs.

Couldn’t the Hartman Group’s same conclusions be said about many other types of culture? Our unique cultures shape our views of, well, everything! Ourselves, others, the entire world! This is in line with Miriam Websters definition of culture – “the beliefs, customs, etc., of a particular society, group, place, or time.” More deeply ingrained in culture than just what we do is how we think. Of course, the two are inseparable, because how we act and what we believe tend to be displays of inner thoughts and feelings.

Let’s take a minute to think about how our ideas and views have been affected, based on the four bullet points above. Remember, the following statements may or may not be fully true or accomplished about me, but it’s what I want to believe or achieve based on different influences of my upbringing. As an American, I believe I am independent to the core; and I want to be someone who changes the world; and for others to see me as someone who chases my dreams; and I have a tendency when traveling to feel untouchable and interesting based on my country of origin alone. As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I believe we all have a certain relationship with God; and I want to be better; and I want others to feel like I will show up when they need help; and though I often feel warned of the terrors of the world, I see tremendous hope everywhere! Lastly, as a Hancock/Smith turned Boyack now, being perseverant (or hard-headed, more accurately) is in my blood; and I want to be someone who puts family first; and for others to be able to depend on me; and I see the world as a place that, given enough attention to detail, can be beautiful.

Think about your cultures for a minute. How are they influencing you? Do you feel a little choked up with pride at the groups you’ve been born into, or chosen to associate yourself with? Do they encourage you to be a version of you that you find attractive? None of my cultural influencers are without their flaws, but you can probably find some good things like I did to dwell on.

So, why study cultures outside of our own? Why even study our own? As we talk throughout this blog, we have to recognize that we do not just belong to one cul de sac, city or even state. Each of us should also be expected to act as world citizens. As we expand our knowledge of others’ ideas and perspectives of the way the world works and believes, we can make more accurate, educated, and confident decisions on a larger scale. We, and our children, will be able to hold more conversations on the sufferings and successes of people at a world-scale. We will learn to better appreciate literature, to understand the feelings and motives behind art and media, and even to want to look more closely at the people and events that lead to scientific and mathematical breakthroughs. At least, this has been my experience. Hopefully, as you participate in fun activities built to enhance your children’s creativity and academic standing – all while looking at countries and people they may have not heard of – you and your children will feel the same!

Now, as a last point. Culture has a third description that I found enlightening. Or rather, the evolution of its meaning is interesting. Look at what Google had to say about where our word “culture” comes from:


That little paragraph teaches us that “culture” and “cultivating” hold the same root. I mean, this makes sense in science terms, of course. But in our ideas, beliefs, arts and experiences with people should we not also being trying to cultivate new things? To cultivate our “mind, faculties, or manners” as Google says, is just as important as understanding what used to be or is culturally accepted now. We should take the ideas and practices of the past and change them for the better, not just stick blindly to them forever.

So tell me – what has influenced the way you feel about yourself and others around you? How can you/we/anyone create or improve upon existing culture?