When I was young, I made a bucket list of things I wanted to do in my life. One of them was to go do humanitarian work in Africa.
There are problems with this goal. For one thing, I was of the opinion that the whole continent of Africa was all sort of the same, and that every one in Africa was poor, and that I could go and do something meaningful to help that.
But the whole continent of Africa is not the same at all. And not every person in Africa is poor. There are other poor parts of the world. And helping in the way that I want to may or may not be helpful to actual people.
In college, we were required to memorize African countries for a geography class, my professor trying to reinforce that Africa is not just one place. Different parts of Africa have different cultures, different problems, and different successes.
The more I learned about the world, the more I realized that so much of what I believe was wrong. For example, you can look at this website, Dollar Street, and you can see actual pictures of how people live in lots of different places. And people aren’t stereotypes.
I also remember thinking that if you had a genetic disease that you would most likely pass down to your children, you would probably not want to have children.
But if you have a disease, your life is still very worthwhile, even if it might be more difficult. You are worthwhile. And even if your children had that same disease, they would also be worthwhile. Their lives would having meaning too.
It’s a more complicated decision than I thought.
I also sort of assumed that if you were disabled in any way, you would want to get rid of that disability. But that’s not true at all. Being disabled does not make someone broken.
I’ve had to challenge other beliefs I had that were racist and mean and not what I want to believe anymore. Like I used to think that being color blind to race is a good thing, but it’s better to acknowledge and celebrate differences and heritages.
I’m grateful for the ability to learn more and I will keep trying to challenge my beliefs. I’m wrong. I’m wrong more often than I like to admit. But I’m going to try to teach my children to be better and to improve myself so that I can be more compassionate, understanding, and believe better.