I suppose somewhere in the back of my mind I am always trying to prove wrong what a teenager once told me. Long story short, I was standing on a beach in Malaysia in 1996 with an American teenager who was living there with her parents. I was in my early 20’s. The pleasant conversation we were having quickly turned into her pronouncing a judgment over me, and all the Americans back home she obviously thought I represented. “You Americans,” she said with forthrightness and cynicism, “have no idea what is happening in the rest of the world.”
I quickly opened my mouth to protest, but no words came out. Instead, the rebuttal I was going to make was quickly replaced by a flashback. A flashback of me sitting cross-legged on my couch, along with 95 million other Americans, watching O.J Simpson’s white Ford Bronco make like a bat out of hell down a California freeway.
Yep, I was guilty. The same me who was glued to the T.V. watching O.J., shrugged her shoulders and went to bed instead of staying up and watching Nightline with my husband the night Rabin was assassinated. Yes, I still cringe over that moment. I was definitely guilty of the ignorance I had been accused of by the teenager. I had a very narrow view of the world.
And then something happened. First, I was awakened to the importance of Israel. And secondly, I spent a few months overseas. Those two events changed me. I started paying attention, to things that mattered…outside of my own little world.
Don’t get me too wrong. I absolutely love my little world. But I try not to hyper-focus on my neck of the woods. I ask G-d continually to help me have balance. I’m a wife, a mom, a citizen, a friend, an employee. Like all of us, I have many responsibilities that I need to put my time and attention towards. But I also want my focus to be on other parts of the world, especially Israel and the Middle East.
By not having a focus on just my own world, but the rest too, I hope I will direct the gaze and focus of my children towards the world so they will never think that it’s all about them.
I spend a lot of time on social media, especially Facebook. My newsfeed is customized to get a lot of news regarding Israel and the Middle East. I remind my kids of that. It worries me that they see me sitting in front of my computer for hours. “You know I’m not just playing or wasting time, right?” I’ll sometimes ask them. “I’m working.” And I’m still proving that teenager in Malaysia wrong. I’m looking out the “window” to the rest of the world.
Today, for example, via the window of Facebook, I found myself looking at the pages of the Kurdish Female Fighters Y.P. J. and The Lions of Rojava. Their pages are filled with hundreds of pictures of the brave (understatement of the year) Kurdish women and men soldiers who have defeated ISIS (may they be obliterated forever) in Kobane.
I admit I had forgotten about the fierce battle happening in Kobane for over one hundred and thirty days. I counted back on my calendar one hundred and thirty days. I thought of all the things I had been a part of since October until now – two children’s birthdays, family gatherings at holidays, cheering at multiple football games and then on to the next sports season of basketball games – all while the Kurdish soldiers were fighting to not only, as they put it, save Kobane, but to save the world.
The juxtaposition of my life and that of the women in Kobane on this day didn’t go unnoticed. The words “parallel” and “universe” came to mind. While they, the battle weary soldiers, were celebrating, but also mourning and remembering all who had fallen in battle, my daughter was getting ready to go to a special event. A school dance.
The Kurds were fighting against forces that would never allow a girl to dance, wear a pretty dress (at least that wasn’t covered by a burqa), or to go out in mixed company.
I stopped a few times from looking at the Facebook pages of the Kurdish fighters to help my daughter get ready. She’s a teenager, so for the most part, she can manage on her own. But I did the little things, like assure her that her make-up looked okay, and finished zipping up the back of her dress. Then I left her to finish getting ready on her own.
When she came out ready to go, at the risk of sounding like a biased mom, she looked beautiful. Really beautiful. I told her so and hugged her and said all the momish things about having fun and making good choices. Then I added one more thing.
“Come here and look at the pictures of these beautiful women for just a second.” And I showed her the holy, beautiful Kurdish female warriors.
I didn’t go into lengthy details about what and who they were fighting against. I didn’t want to put a damper on her excitement. But I just wanted her to see a different kind of beauty happening in the world right now to go along with her beauty.
“These beautiful, strong women,” I said, “are fighting for something really important right now. And they are winning.” Then I kissed her goodbye.
She is aware of people fighting around the world. Her favorite picture from our summer trip to Israel is her posing with soldiers of the IDF. She has a cousin in America’s armed forces. And she goes to school with kids who have already committed to the military. She has awareness. But that doesn’t mean that I won’t stop reminding her in little ways to always heighten that awareness.
Yes, she’s a teenager, so I let her have her moments of “it’s all about me.” But I also never want her to be as ignorant as I was standing on that Malaysian beach. I always want her to have a room with a view of the rest of the world.