How Parents Can Influence World Peace

Whitney Houston once sang: ‘I believe the children are our future; teach them well and let them lead the way; show them all the beauty they possess inside.’

I don’t normally quote deceased pop artists, but, at no time in my life are these words more true than right now.

With the recent increase in violence, hatred, and isolationism, it’s high time we take a good look at the world around us and discuss how to right the ship so that my son, and children everywhere, aren’t left holding our rotten leftovers.

Do we want our cities to resemble New York as depicted in the movie The Siege? I love Bruce Willis as much as the next guy, but internment camps for Muslims is just un-American, despite what Mr. Trumps thinks.

Bruce Willis in ‘The Siege’, 20th Century Fox Films.

I admit — I never gave much thought to the future of our world beyond my existence. To be honest, it kind of made my head spin with uncertainly and unimportance.

But since becoming a father a bit over a year ago, my perspective on life overall has shifted. Parents out there — you know what I mean. If you’re not a parent, amuse me and read on anyway.

So how do we ‘teach our children well’ and equip them with the skills to ‘lead the way’ in the uncertain future?

I don’t pretend to have the silver bullet solution here, but think there are two basic things we can start with.

Befriend a Muslim

Or a Jew, or a Hindu, or a Mormon…you get the idea.

I am Jewish (Happy Hanukkah). Growing up, one of my best friends was Muslim.

Religious symbols of the world. Credit: wooddragon9

Sameer lived behind us in our neighborhood on Long Island, New York, and we developed a tight friendship from early on. There were dinners at each other’s homes and football games on the lawn. One summer, I worked with Sameer at his family’s business. We were tight!

Sometimes, in the middle of hanging out, Sameer would drop everything to pray. I would sit and watch. Sometimes, I asked questions…sometimes I just sat there and marveled at his dedication to his faith.

Later in life, I went to a local mosque outside of Toronto and witnessed Sameer’s wedding to a lovely girl.

A few weeks after 9/11, I remember visiting Sameer’s house. I barely got through the door, and his parents pulled me into the living room. They started to tell me, almost pleading with me, to understand that all Muslims were not terrorists.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Even with anger and confusion still fresh in mind from the attacks on my home city, I never once thought it was appropriate to apply any label to an entire people because of the acts of a few cowards.

Why not?

Because of my friendship with Sameer.

And he wasn’t the only one — I was fortunate to have friends from all faiths, all backgrounds, and all beliefs. I got a true glimpse into their lives and their value system.

Do your kids and the world a favor — go knock on the door of your new neighbor, even if they look or a bit different than you. Let your kids play at the park with kids that look different than them.

Give them the gift of tolerance and perspective now so that they carry it with them when it’s their turn to lead in the future.

Give Kids the Gift of Travel

If more of the world’s youth were able to experience other cultures, would this make us more peaceful overall as global citizens?

Big question, I know, but I say yes!

Travel from a young age can promote perspective, understanding, and empathy. Seeing another culture firsthand as a child creates a permanent imprint in their minds.

Keith Bellows, former Editor-in-Chief of National Geographic Traveler, recently passed away. During his life, Keith was a huge proponent of traveling with kids and once said:

“I’m convinced that any parent willing to give the gift of travel offers the gift that keeps on giving. Children who learn to travel will travel to learn. And they will do it all their lives.”

Travel promotes curiosity and I believe it is part of a well-balanced education. If you’re going to spend potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars on a top college for your kids, why not spend a small fraction of that taking them on a tour of China or hiking through Europe?

They will return more well rounded and in the future, will remain more even-keel and balanced when emotions threaten to sabotage their decision making capabilities.

Me, Mom, & my aunt in Cuba. One of many family adventures I’ve been lucky enough to experience.

If you don’t know where to start planning a family trip, check out the Family Travel Association.

Of course, travel is expensive, but that doesn’t mean that low income children should be left out. Organizations like Learning AFAR and No Barriers Youth do great work providing scholarships to youth who would otherwise not have the opportunity to see the world.

Most of us can’t influence presidential candidates, radicalized Imams, or anyone else spouting words of hate.

But we can influence our children.

If enough of us do that, we may just chart a new, more peaceful course for their futures. Thanks Mom and Dad for influencing me and giving me some perspective.

I am Co-founder of Stride Travel but all opinions are my own.

Please let me know your thoughts on this topic. If you like what you read, I encourage you to please share and recommend. Thanks!