9 life lessons I’ve learned from working with children

nateandtheworld:

On point. 9 to be exact. All the credit goes to my friend Marryl! Stellar post!

Originally posted on marecredi:

In the summer I work at a day camp, and this is my last week and I’m feeling the feels. It’s an all-girls day camp called Girls Rock! that promotes positive self image and self esteem (I know, stupid cute). The kids range from 5 years old (sometimes 4 and a half) to twelve, so I see, hear, and experience a bunch of interesting things, and what I’ve discovered is that children can teach you a whole lot of grown-up lessons. Here are a few:

 
1. Listen to people and they will like you a lot more:
     When I ask you to listen I promise that it is for your own benefit. When you don’t listen, you don’t know how to do the craft, you ask a million questions I’ve already answered, and I am not a happy camper. Listen the first time and you’ll make my favourites list…

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Racism

This past week saw the unfolding of some very ugly events in Ferguson, Missouri. The predominately white police force has been at odds with the predominately black population of the suburb following the shooting of an unarmed black teenager at the hands of the police. There has been a lot of protests, and a lot of fighting. The amount of factors that need to be considered in this conflict can go and on. The militarization of the police. The power imbalance between whites and blacks in the police force. Then there’s also the pictures posted of Michael Brown (the teenager who was killed) which seemed to deliberately show him as a thug. This sparked an avalanche of posts across Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown, exposing the idea that the media decided to use the most “gangster” picture of Michael Brown possible. Everywhere you look the situation is a mess. But it boils down to one thing. This became more than just a mistake by a police officer. This is another reminder that even today, racism still exists.

As progressive as we North Americans claim to be, there’s still lots of work that needs to be done on this front. Old habits die very hard. While this is an example of racist tensions boiling over in the States, it’s easy to think that we’ve got it made here in Canada. And in reality, we do. But just as women have indubitably more power in North America than they do in other countries, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a cause for feminism here. Like gender inequality, racism is still very present in Canada, only in quieter, harder to notice ways. More obvious instances of racism involve our treatment of First Nations people, but subtler reminders of it are still there. And I see them.

Earlier this week, I was taking a nap. Around 4’o’clock, I woke up to the sound of a male voice. I was still bleary eyed when he opened my door. It was a white, bearded police officer with my mother. Apparently there had been a break-in upstairs (we live in a basement apartment) and the police officer was just coming to ask us we’d heard anything. So that’s what he did. He asked me if I’d heard anything. I asked him around what time, he said it probably happened between 10AM and 2PM. I said I hadn’t heard anything. If anything, when we hear footsteps upstairs we just assume it’s our landlords.

Then out of the blue he asked me, “Did you do it?”

I can imagine how confused I suddenly looked.

“Because that would be a real asshole move.” He continued.

I was a little taken aback, and in the moment, I didn’t realize how rude he was being. I kind of gestured to the stuff around me as if to say ‘why would I want to break in anywhere? I have everything I need.’ Now, before we get all up in arms about the rudeness of this police officer (oh, and he was very rude and tactless), I kind of understood what he was doing at the time. I fit the demographic of a potential ‘breaker-and-enterer.’ If I had actually done it, perhaps he could’ve shocked me into telling the truth but coming out and asking me. So while I could kind of justify it in my own head, I was still taken aback. How could he just ask that? As he was leaving he was thanking us for our time and whatnot, and he asked for my mother’s name. When my mom said our last name was Henderson he responded with surprise. Then she said her first name, which is Sita (the name of a Hindu goddess, for those who are interested), he responded with, “Ah! Now that fits the profile.” Hmm, funny, good one police officer. Maybe he was making a joke. Maybe he wasn’t. Either way, it wasn’t a good one.

Sometimes people comment on why I always bring up the fact that I’m brown. You want to know why? Because I always have to think about it. The majority never have to think about whether or not people are treating them differently because they’re a certain skin colour. They don’t have to worry about it. Growing up in predominately Dutch schools, and living in a residence with Mennonite roots, I’ve always been a minority. And that’s something, as a minority, you always have to think about. Am I being treated differently because of my skin colour? Am I being given certain opportunities because I fit the ‘diversity’ quota? Am I not being given certain opportunities because I’m brown? Whether or not the answer to these questions are ‘yes,’ the fact is that I have to think about them. And many people who I know don’t have to deal with it, and unfortunately can’t understand until they live in a place where they are minority. When I told this story to my friend Caitlin who lived in Ghana, she spoke of how she dealt with the flip side. When she would drive anywhere, being a white girl, police officers would stop her incessantly. An example of a police force rampant with corruption, Ghana’s finest would stop her, and demand that she give them money to let her pass. It became part of a routine. The reason why she was constantly stopped? Because she was white, and therefore obviously rich. She probably had to think, everywhere she went, how am I being treated differently because I’m white? She understands it.

It’s a constant thought in my mind: how am I being treated differently because of my skin colour, and it doesn’t go away. Because police officers like the one I met earlier this week make me ask the question. I have to think, maybe he wouldn’t have asked me that if I had been white. Because that’s a very real possibility. And it’s that possibility that reminds me that racism is still very real. It’s like an undercurrent, a subliminal reality that many people don’t recognize. But it’s there.

That said, with my white friends – whom I love deeply and cherish – I don’t have to think about that with them. I know how they treat me will never be dependent on my skin colour. But I had to learn that over time. For everybody else, I probably will never stop asking that question. And that’s just how it is.

We all deal with discrimination in some way or another. Some, definitely more than others. From the LGBT community, to Christians, to Muslims, to women, there seems to be no end to persecuted groups around the world. Going back to my previous post on Perspective, we all have our struggles. And this is one of mine. Maybe one day we’ll be able to talk about these things like they’re in the past. I doubt it, considering human beings’ penchant throughout history for pushing others down to bring themselves up. But that doesn’t give me, or anybody else an excuse to remain ignorant of what other people have to deal with. What I’ve gone through has made me realize that there’s lot of things that remain unspoken; there’s lots of things under the surface. I always need to look closer.

 

Perspective

Ok, rant time.

This past weekend, something terrible happened. This past Friday was the nationally televised scrimmage for Team USA basketball, a team full of NBA stars, all fighting for a spot on the team. Paul George, Indiana Pacers star, went up to play defence on Houston Rockets star James Harden as he went up for a layup. Harden converted the difficult layup, and Paul George landed against the basketball stanchion. Then, his shin grotesquely split in half and he crumpled to the floor. It was a compound fracture of both his fibula and his tibia. The footage of the injury is not for the faint of heart, but if you wish to watch it, you can watch it here.

This is heartbreaking stuff. Paul George is young, a mere 24 years old. He’s a burgeoning superstar, and a beacon of light for a Pacers franchise that has only just recovered from what sports fans know as the “Malice at the Palace.” This devastating injury will not only keep him out of basketball for the upcoming season, it may or may not ruin his career. His lifelong dream. What he thought was his future. Everything was changed in that brief moment. Maybe he’ll return to the heights he was at before, and continue doing things like this. But for now, we don’t know for sure. And that’s incredibly sad.

The hashtag #PrayForPaulGeorge swept over Twitter, a typical Twitter response to a nationally televised event gone horribly wrong. But there were a few tweets in particular that caught my attention. There were actually lots of them, but here’s one just to give you an idea:

Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 2.46.30 AM

 

Oh, wait, here’s another one:

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I get where these people are coming from. Paul George isn’t dead. Dozens and dozens of men, women and children in Gaza are. What makes me mad isn’t the fact that people are saying an injury isn’t as bad as a multitude of deaths in Gaza. Because, it’s really not. It’s the demeaning of the pain that Paul George has, and saying people shouldn’t pray for him because there’s so many better things to pray for.

Let’s bring this back a little bit. My family has never had very much money. As a kid, my problems were never the same problems as the kids I went to school with. My friends would talk about what they would get for their birthday, or what they would do. I couldn’t really relate, because I knew we couldn’t afford to do anything crazy for my birthday. While I retained a tolerant exterior, this kind of stuff made me bitter, and angry. Not against my parents – who are fantastic human beings who have provided me with everything I truly needed – but instead towards these friends of mine who would be mad about this and and that, when I had so many more pressing things to deal with. Without going into too much detail, my problems were different from my friends’ problems, and they could never understand. They couldn’t get it. I knew this from a very young age, and knew very early that I couldn’t tell people at school about them. In turn, I looked at the things they worried about with disdain: You’re worried about not being able to go to that concert you always wanted to go to? Oh shoot, darn, life sucks for you. You’re worried that the food you’re eating is a little too unhealthy? At least you can sit here and eat something today. These were the thoughts that ran through my head. Only I censored them for your reading pleasure.

As I grew older, I realized something. It was tough to realize. It’s tough to realize anything that knocks you off of your moral high horse. But I came to know that pain is real. For everyone. Who am I to discredit someone’s pain? Who am I to look at something that is causing someone real worry and sorrow and say, you have nothing to be sad about. It’s not someone else’s fault that they haven’t experienced what I’ve experienced. They may have been blessed with not having the problems I have, but I have also been blessed to not have the problems they’ve had. I’ve been blessed with a fantastic, intact family. I’ve been blessed by a God who loves me and is forever providing for me even when there’s no earthly way I should be where I am today. I have been blessed so abundantly in a way that not everyone can say they have been blessed with. So how can I, with a good conscience, look at what someone else is being torn apart by, and say that what they’re feeling isn’t worth feeling?

While Paul George’s injury doesn’t have the world-wide ramifications and death toll of those killed in Gaza, that doesn’t make his pain any less real. I’m sure that the above tweeters were more angry about the awareness that George’s injury was getting compared to Gaza’s. I agree, the attention we are giving to Paul George’s problems pales in comparison to bigger issues in the world, but I understand why.

The problems and crises of people worldwide haunt me. I hate that not enough people in the world care about them. But, to a certain degree, it makes sense. It’s hard to connect to something that you have no ability to relate with. People across the world are facing wars, disease and injustices that we can only imagine in North America. And that’s hard to relate to. I get that. I understand why more people tweeted #PrayforPaulGeorge than #PrayForGaza. For what it matters, I don’t think it’s right (whatever that word really means) that Paul George is getting more attention than Gaza. But saying that the people of Gaza deserve prayer, and that Paul George does not? That is ignorance. Pain is pain, small scale, and grand scale. All people need prayer. Psalm 34:18 says that God is near to the broken hearted. That includes Paul George, and his family. That includes that kid who just learned that his favourite player might not play basketball again. That includes members of Hamas who have lost their loved ones. That includes the family of the abducted Israeli soldier. That includes the remnants of a broken community in Gaza Strip, as they mourn for the hundreds they have lost.

There is no criteria for what truly makes someone brokenhearted. Do you want me to repeat that? Maybe I’ll do it with some different phrasing for you: You don’t get to choose what being broken-hearted is for other people.

We all need a healthy dose of perspective. I needed it, and continue to need it. Part of me says that all those tweeters are right, that people need to get their priorities straight, that Paul George’s pain doesn’t matter when you look at what’s happening in the Middle East. But then I look at my friends, who I know and love, and I think about how their despair has differed from mine. That doesn’t make their despair unworthy. It makes it different. People can debate however they want about how some pain is greater than others. And yes, people who are #PrayingForPaulGeorge should definitely be #PrayingForGaza too. However, the bottom line is, I will never look at what someone’s going through and say it’s unworthy. And neither should you.

Pain is pain.

It’s all about perspective.

 

 

 

Photo: Israeli Patrol – Gaza Strip 1988 by Phillip Croma.

License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/legalcode

Why is Nathan Henderson Taking International Development?

What you’ll find on this blog is mostly stuff that matters to me. This stuff mostly can fall under three categories: My faith, basketball, and International Development. Why? Well it’s easy that way. Plus, there’s so much for me to write about both. This week, it’s International Development.

For most people, when I tell them I’m majoring in International Development, they nod and say “cool!” with a smile, but their eyes look confused. So I try to explain it. My explanation is usually – nay, always – inadequate. The short summary of how I do it is telling them to imagine World Vision-y kind of stuff, third world countries, and learning about developing parts of the world economically, or through education, or improved healthcare of whatever. But that doesn’t scratch the surface. What is International Development?

As any INDEV student at Waterloo who’s paid attention in INDEV 100 – or any of the courses that come after – can tell you, that’s not an easy question to answer. We still don’t know the answer. The reality is that International Development means different things to different individuals. Development is a term that encapsulates so many things: gender equality, transparent leadership, health care, education and economics like I mentioned before, as well as so much more. For different people, different variables mean more than others. For some, they believe economic development is the most important thing. For others it’s education. For others it’s social justice. International Development doesn’t just draw any sort of person, it draws passionate people. People who are passionate about certain issues. The issues they’re passionate about often take precedence over others. That doesn’t necessarily mean that these issues are more important than others. It means that these issues are more important to that particular person. So right there, there’s already a lack of consensus.

Development’s definition has also changed substantially over history. At first it was strictly economic development, back when Harry Truman gave a four point speech on development that some say started it all. This definition has expanded to now include all the variables I mentioned above, but the administering of this “development” has continued to evolve. At first, the responsibility lay with the government to administer it (Keynesian economics), then gradually to corporations and businesses (neoliberalism). Now, the general (general is the key word here) consensus is that the responsibility of development should lie with grassroots organizations in the places of need. Development as you can see is fluid, and impossible to hammer down into stone. Anyone who studies International Development has to be comfortable with uncertainty. Or, to put it more nicely, to be comfortable with dynamism. (Side note: click on the links for more information on these concepts. There’s a lot more to know when it comes to what these terms mean).

Just to add another fun wrinkle to this is the fact that development is primarily a comparative term. When you’re talking about developing a nation, or an area, you’re developing it to include certain characteristics of what you define as development. What you define as development is probably the North American, or Western, idea of development. But is that really ideal development? What makes us so arrogant to think that we need to develop other areas to be like us? What makes us believe that we’re the pinnacle of civilization? Are we? Questions upon questions, wrinkles upon wrinkles.

So why am I telling you all this? I guess because I wanted to tell you that International Development can’t be pinned down. It’s challenging, and it’s scary. And that’s part of why I chose it. That, and all this (please pardon the stutter). After my first year of university (which I absolutely loved), I still felt a little dissatisfied. I enjoyed most of my courses (especially the business ones), and did much better than I thought I would. But I didn’t really care about anything that I did. Sure, I learnt valuable skills from my conflict resolution class and very relevant skills from my accounting class, but I was not affected in a way I wanted to be. I was bored, for lack of a better word. Coming out of high school, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. I opted for Arts and Business at Waterloo because of the flexibility the program offered. That, and the co-op option, which for a person coming from little money, was more enticing than perhaps anything else. But I realized it wasn’t for me. Everything felt like surface level knowledge. Sure, much of it was useful, but I didn’t feel like I was being challenged. By challenged, I don’t mean academically. I mean challenged on a broader scale; on my own perspective of the world and my place in it. I prayed incessantly and rather desperately about it. Ultimately, I felt led by God to do something scary. Something outside of the box, something where I didn’t know what the outcome would be. Something where my future wasn’t clear. I think it’s pretty safe to say that no one wants to do something that fits the above criteria. But God has brought me through everything I’ve ever gone through, and that’s more than enough reason to trust Him now. So I went for it, I made the switch. I’m glad I did.

International Development is a program where you ask big questions with real world ramifications, where there is no “right” answer. If you think about humanity in general, this is the way it should be. There are no right answers to the big questions that life inspires, there are only more questions. It’s a mystery that doesn’t end, and it’s a mystery that keeps evolving. It challenges me and continues to challenge me. That’s why I chose International Development.

I’m sure I would’ve enjoyed many other programs (Environment and Business, Architecture, Journalism, Marketing, Theatre, heck, so many things), and done alright. Indeed, I’ll probably do something different from International Development if I go to grad school. But I’m content with my choice. I know I may not want to do development work for the rest of my life, but I know I want to be involved with it in some capacity. For me, ultimately, that’s not the most important thing that this program is giving me right now. Sure it’s giving me those tools, but that’s secondary to the challenge that International Development offers. It offers the challenge of dealing with questions you may not be able to answer completely. It’s a challenge that I accepted.

It’s been a great ride so far! Including hijinks like this video which you can watch and enjoy heartily (I hope). I look forward to all the adventures that this next year will bring as well.

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Joy

So, I haven’t written in this thing for a while. First it was because I was too busy, then it was because of school, and now it’s because of lack of habit. It’s easy for one to forget how much they like writing when they don’t do it for a long time. But, last year around this time I wrote a blog post about my birthday, and one of my friends, Jess, told me that I should write another one for this year. I thought that was a grand idea.

What’s this about then you ask? Ha, well at first I was asking the same question. What to write about? The ultimate problem for writers everywhere. Just ask my friend Marryl. She’s committed to writing a blog post every Wednesday (like the champ she is), and sometimes she doesn’t know what to write. In those times, she resorts to having her friends take her phone and do their worst. I on the other hand, live about an hour away from many of my close friends, so I was stuck with doing this myself. But I figured it out. What I’m going to be talking about today is joy.

I had a lovely birthday this year. I invited a few of my friends who live far away to come hang out with me. We took the subway from Islington Station to Eaton’s Centre, had some late lunch, and then went off to Toronto Island to explore all that they had to offer. Lots of cool stuff apparently! There’s the obvious attraction of Centre Island of course, but there’s so much more. There are bicycles to rent, beaches to frequent (including a nudist beach for the more bold/shameless of us), and plenty of parks and greenery to enjoy, all whilst a quick ferry ride away from the urban jungle of Toronto. It was awesome. We took the train back and had a lovely dinner at Moxies, where my friends Rhiannon, Clarice and I shared the most heavenly brownie I have ever experienced. The white chocolate brownie.

Praise the Lord. It was so good. I came back home absolutely exhausted. But absolutely joyful.

But what is joy? What makes one joyful? I think joyful has a profound difference from happiness. My experience and my learning has taught me that joy is something deeper than happiness; that happiness is a fleeting sort of emotion while joy is stronger and holds for longer. Like I try to do in most things, I look to the Word of God for insight. There’s a single verse that comes to mind first, which I checked and saw is from Nehemiah 8:10. The verse goes like this:

“Then he said to them, ‘Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.’”

Nehemiah 8 sees Ezra and Nehemiah reading the words of the law to the people of Israel. As they read, the people of Israel wept. Ezra and Nehemiah quieted the people by saying that the joy of the Lord is their strength. The people went away from that place ready to give to those who had little, and to eat and to drink. They also went away from there rejoicing. They received the joy of the Lord.

I want to focus on the last part here, “And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” All that does is beg another question: what’s the joy of the Lord? What is it about the Lord that gives me strength? The answer is deceptively simple if we think about it: what has the Lord given us that should give us joy? To make it easier, what is the ultimate gift he has given us? The answer: the cross, or in other words, grace.

Grace means a gift of something that we don’t deserve. As a Christian I believe that humanity is inherently broken. We go to war. We hurt people. We destroy our earth. We despise those who are different than us. We try to fix it, but history tells us we’re just a broken record. I find it so amusing how everyone these days thinks that we’re so enlightened. That we’ve learnt enough from our past enough to fix everything. You can see this especially in a university context. The reality is, every generation before us thought the exact same thing, and every generation fails, in one way or another. We’re so full of ourselves sometimes. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t stop trying to fix the problems of this world (heck, I’m an International Development student for goodness sake), but it does mean that we can’t change what we are, broken. What we fix will eventually be broken again. By broken human beings. As I believe it, we are sinful, and we need grace. We need so much of it. But sometimes it’s hard to see.

It’s easy to be blinded to our own deficiencies. After all, we live in a society of self-sufficiency and individuality. We sometimes gloss over our deficiencies, saying that we’re fine this way. We frame our faults in a way that makes them seem praiseworthy, if anything to cover up for our own insecurities. We’re insecure because we don’t want to confront that there’s something wrong with us. I didn’t think I needed grace for a long time. Ask most people: I’m about as self-sufficient as it gets. I’ve been able to do everything by myself for most of life, and do it well. It’s only been in the past few years that I’ve really understood how much I need a Saviour. I was faced with the gravity of my brokenness, my failure, and my sin. That’s when I realized how much I didn’t deserve.

So, you guys are probably wondering how this figures into joy. So far I sound pretty doom and gloom right? But that’s the point. Sin is a criminal offence against the holiest of victims. Someone has to pay the price. That’s what justice is. Grace means that someone else has paid that price. Christ gave me a pardon, and now I’m walking free. And that is the greatest joy of all.

So, how does this connect back to my birthday, and feeling joyful? Well, people have told me that I’m unusually optimistic and happy, and, dare I say it, joyful. I thought about this for a second. I realized that hasn’t always been the case. You should have seen me in Grade 11. I felt crushed by the world around me; I felt like I was being constantly hit with all sorts of hits that I didn’t deserve. I was depressed and wallowing in self pity. I didn’t look at what I had already as a blessing, but instead looked at it as a given. I thought I deserved more. But over the past few years, I’ve learnt that all I have is a gift. True joy I’ve realized, isn’t in being happy or having things work out the way you want. Joy is realizing that you don’t deserve anything, but seeing that you get something anyways.

Joy is realizing that every gift comes from above. Gifts aren’t earnings. Gifts are things you don’t necessarily deserve. I deserve nothing, but I have so much. I have a loving family (especially a super attractive younger brother #bae).

I have amazing friends. I have enough resources to get what I need (not always what I want). I keep discovering new talents. I have the ability to do the things I love, like playing sports. I have a body that works remarkably well. I see all the things I have and all I can see now are blessings that I don’t deserve. As I enter this 21st year of life, I want to make sure I don’t lose that. It’s a blessing in and of itself that I know this. But it’s easy to forget. We human beings are so fickle and easily forgetful. But for now, I know that my God is great. I know that my God loves me. And that’s what allows me to live with joy.

Photo creds to Marryl Smith.

 

Here Comes Kobe!

Here Comes Kobe!

I wrote a post a while ago about Kobe called Tapeinos, which you can see here: http://nateandtheworld.wordpress.com/2013/05/12/tapeinos/

An article from Sports Illustrated recently came out describing Kobe’s ride back to the NBA. If you like the NBA, hard-working people, and tenacious desire to win, read this article. This man embodies all three :)