For the first time, very recently too, during a discussion around a very unusual, unique topic, a friend told me that I was ignorant. To be honest with you, I felt offended. However, because this individual is a good friend and we know each other well, I decided to put my emotions aside and wanted to understand why he felt that way. I knew better that his intention was not to upset me. While my friend already understood the meaning and tried to get me onboard, I wanted to learn more.
So, for the sake of this article, like what many would do, in most scenarios, I turned to the “know-it-all-engine”. Per wikipedia, “ignorance” means a lack of knowledge. The word ignorant is an adjective describing a person in the state of being unaware, and is often, incorrectly, used to describe individuals who deliberately ignore or disregard important information or facts.
So this all made sense as I read it; I have been going with an incorrect assumption of its meaning. After all, I knew little about this unique topic we were talking about. It just never occurred to me to give it a lot of thoughts; I have never been put into a position to reflect on it, while this specific individual had all the knowledge and understanding on this topic.
When I first moved to the United States in the Fall of 2006, it was way before Google had all the answers. Facebook was rapidly making its strongholds on university campuses, very few have heard of Twitter, Instagram hasn’t made its appearance. My grad school was in Rochester, upstate NY. A few days after I arrived, only then I learned that just on the other side of the Lake Ontario lay the beautiful country of Canada, and that a very short ferry ride would get you faster than driving through Niagara Falls, which takes nearly 2 hours.
Until then, for all I knew, Canada was in Europe. After all, Quebecois spoke French as their first language; isn’t that enough excuse? Albeit, I couldn’t pinpoint exactly where Europe was in comparison to the United States. Several years ago, I finally have had it; I resolved to learning the world map. I decided to return to my old curiosity and knowledge-thirst-childhood. When I was little, I was that annoying little kid who asks tons of questions. In my defense, my Dad delighted into answering them all, and I, on the other hand, enjoyed his undivided attention with pleasure.
I have always been someone who likes to learn. I don’t necessarily have to use the knowledge for anything other than being informed.
Moreover, being in school in America or working for Cisco, embracing diversity is inevitable. So, I turned to Google maps and starred at it often; different continents, looked at countries. I took map quizzes, I embarked into reading books, I started traveling.
While I like to read, I am very specific: I mostly prefer memoirs & biographies over everything else. In my defense, if the book’s title starts by “how to” or anything that doesn’t have a true story to it, by the time I get to page 3, I completely forgot everything on the first page or why I’m reading it in the first place. No offense to you if you like fiction reads and notes about how to improve a habit. It doesn’t work for me.
I read memoirs about individuals who endured so much in life to get to where they are; I find comfort and encouragement in their journeys. From stories of the genocide against the Tutsi survivors in Rwanda, to South Africa’s stories of overcoming apartheid, and how a young girl had to go through in the face of being born colored shockingly from white parents, to stories of unthinkable acts against women’s rights in the slums of Somalia, I inhaled their struggles as mine. I learned about the stories of young innocent children turned soldiers and unimaginable evil in the killing fields of Cambodia.
I read the 1940s Jewish Holocaust and what European Jews had to endure in gas chambers and stories of heroes who sacrificed their lives to save them. I read stories of religious prosecution in Pakistan, not just by neighbors, but families disowning and intent to kill their very own. I read stories of survival of Iranian citizens, stories of wives being held hostage against their will in the name of religion in some nations.
I read stories about civil rights in America during the 60s, slavery and what black Americans had to go through to get here. I have read stories about human trafficking right in our backyards here in United States. I read about stories in the Korean Peninsula. When I do read a book, I learn about where that country is on the map, and I try to follow the authors’ journeys. I connect with their pains, and make myself part of it. I cry often but I mostly praise the Living God for sheltering them even when some of these stories know nothing about His Mercy.
Perhaps I find comfort in these accounts because I can relate to some of them, in one way or another; the fact that I lost my parents at 13 during the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. Or perhaps it encourages me because the victory that these people who have lost so much were awarded. Whatever is the reason why those are my preferred list, these stories have been helping me to be understanding.
My conclusion from these various stories from books I shared above is what they all have in common: every single human being, regardless of their origin, color, social class, status, we all struggle in different ways, desire to be loved and treated with respect. Grab a book, educate yourself. Knowledge is powerful.