Photos Courtesy Jennifer Cook
Photos Courtesy: Jennifer Cook

In light of the devastating and heart-wrenching recent attacks in Paris, reposting this piece is timely. Sadly, brutal and barbaric onslaughts toward innocent citizens are happening worldwide: Baghdad, Beirut, Turkey, Nigeria. Desperate Syrian refugees are flooding foreign borders to escape the madness that has cruelly upended their daily existence. As evidenced by the two attacks on Paris this year, vicious insanity is creeping into Western borders. Citizens of the world are entering an unchartered and unfathomable future. 

What is the answer? If only “one answer” were so simple. We must not let fear disfigure our hearts. Despite this ugly situation, teaching our children kindness, empathy, and understanding of others’ belief systems is imperative if we want to keep the narrative of global peace. The perspective and experience of Zac Ebrahim offers hope in this dark chapter of world history.

Originally published September 11, 2014:

 

Comprehensive sexual health education is not merely about condoms and STI’s. If you have been following my blog, you realize I touch on issues such as decision-making, domestic violence, and healthy relationships. These topics are all under the umbrella of “personal safety” within the construct of comprehensive sex ed.

Personal safety also includes the topic of bullying. I have written a blog regarding bullying that is ready to post, however I happened upon this Ted Talk yesterday and felt the urgency to share it today instead.

Zac Ebrahim: I am the son of a terrorist. Here’s how I chose peace.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=lyR-K2CZIHQ%3Frel%3D0%26showinfo%3D0frameborder%3D0allowfullscreen

 

Yes, take a minute to think about this Talk. Incredibly inspiring, isn’t it?

Despite being raised, mentored, and indoctrinated into a belief system of violence and terror, and despite being bullied incessantly throughout his school career, Mr. Ebrahim came to understand that bloodshed and cruelty are not the answer. He lives his life on the very basic humanistic rule….The Golden Rule:

Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You.

And what changed the trajectory of his life? One friend. One friend who happened to be Jewish. One friend he had been led to believe would be his mortal enemy merely because he was Jewish. One friend who was “different” than him – and then another friend, then another – who made him realize we are all just people who pretty much just want to enjoy and live life like everyone else. Yet it was his weary mother who finally gave him permission to follow his intrinsic awareness of compassion v. hatred – “I’m so tired of hating people” she told him. A simple, profound, and yet freeing statement.

There are so many layers to his story – so many components we could peel away and analyze: bullying, terrorism, education, raising children, world experiences, perspectives of others… But to me there are two resounding messages I would like to encourage people, especially impressionable adolescents, to consider.

  • One message I would like to emphasize is to get out into the world and meet people who are “different” than you…different cultures, different sexual orientation, different spiritual beliefs, different skin color. If you have the opportunity, travel to different countries. You will find the differences are what make people interesting. It will challenge your perspective and help you grow as an enlightened, compassionate person.
  • The other message is to treat others with kindness and compassion. You just never know how your behavior toward another person can make a difference – not just personally, but even globally. If people are busy thinking about ways to be compassionate and kindhearted, they will be less likely to be plotting ways to bully or demean.

(And yes, this is what is taught in comprehensive sex ed. Surprised?)

In this day of remembrance, and everyday, show kindness to those you come across.

All it takes is a smile.

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