Blog Archives

The Definition of a “Good” Education

Dear Readers,

Two blog posts ago I discussed the words that came to mind when I saw two men giving free education to impoverished, homeless, and orphaned children in India. As promised, I would like to continue the discussion.

Take a look at the first picture and the ones below. Then ask yourself this: “What is the true meaning of education?” “What is a ‘good’ education?”

Before I answer these questions myself, I will say that some of the greatest discussions and lessons have been in group circles with nothing but chairs. I actually remember being in my college poetry class and how my colleagues and I were so excited whenever we were able to have our session outside the classroom with nothing but the grass as our seats and our laps for our desks. Now I say, “whenever we were able” because we were not the only class with the same desire.

When I was a volunteer ESL teacher last year, I had nothing but flashcards, a 4 x 2 whiteboard on a pedestal and barley working markers. My classroom was in a small cafeteria with 15-20 students who I shared one bathroom with. And you know what? I couldn’t have been happier. And most importantly, they couldn’t have been happier and they couldn’t have learned any more than other students who were more “fortunate.” We were satisfied because the job got done.

So this brings me to what many may argue but what I believe in my heart and soul:

Education does not need technology

Education does not need desks

Education does not need rigorous and pointless testing

Education needs teaching from teachers, not computers

Education needs passion and compassion

Education needs care

Education needs teachers to be judged by the difference they make, not by test scores

Education needs love

Education needs individuality

You know, I sometimes feel that if we come from less, things that others take for granted will be worth so much more.

So, if you’re wondering about what makes a “good” education, just take a look at the faces of those young children and you’ll know.

Peace and Love,

Ariffa

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A Picture and a Thousand Words

Photo found on http://www.viralnova.com/touching-photos/. I do not own.

Dear Readers,

When I first saw this photo of volunteers Rajesh Kumar Sharma and Laxmi Chandra giving free education to homeless, orphaned, and impoverished children in India, I didn’t have any words. Acutally, I couldn’t even find the words to express the emotion I felt. Two weeks later, I found them. And although they may not be a thousand words, and although this photo is worth so much more, these are the words I have. I invite you to add more.

Goodness

Godliness

Compassion

Passion

Strength

Will

Drive

Love

Hope

Hope

Hope

I shall follow up with another post on this photo.

Peace and Love,

Ariffa

In Honor Of…

candles-141892_640Dear Readers,

I’ve been feeling a bit down lately, so to cheer myself up, and perhaps some of you as well, I have decided to write today’s post about compassion.  It’s actually a repost from when I first started blogging, but its meaning is the same, nonetheless:

I sometimes get the feeling that we as a society are afraid feel and let others see our emotion and compassion.  And sometimes we can just be flat out cold.  I’m sure some of you have seen the show “What Would You Do?,” well this is a story from a first hand experience.  I used to live in New York City (NYC), and as most know, NYC has thousands of homeless on the streets and in the subway trains.  Sometimes that person is not homeless, but a severely disabled or scarred member of society that needs some change for surgery or what not.  More often than not, these people are asking for money and food.  As a child, you learn to adapt to your surroundings and you observe and blend into what is “normal.”  Therefore as a child, I thought it was completely normal to ignore a person in need and pretend that they are not literally standing in front of you asking for help.

I moved away from the city when I was ten, and it wasn’t until I was an adult that I rode the subways and walked the streets of NYC again (I was visiting family).  I cannot describe the immense pain and heartache I felt.  The majority of that emotion was not only because the person was disabled or homeless.  It was because 1) That person was being ignored by a train full of people or by hundreds of passerby and 2) I could not imagine how that person themselves felt to hear complete silence or no movement of help towards them when they ask for it (not to say that there weren’t some noble souls).  Whenever I could, I gave to those on the subway some money and offered a prayer of blessing to those on the street and to those I did not have cash for.  Like most, I sometimes wondered if they would actually use that money for good, and you know what I thought to myself?  I say “it’s on them.”  It’s on their soul if they decide to take advantage of person when he/she is doing something that they see right.  I say to myself “don’t worry what others think, or what that person may do with the money.  You’re doing what you think and feel is right.”  I sometimes feel like we use the “they’ll use it for alcohol” excuse because we are afraid to show compassion for fear of being looked at as weak or foolish.  If something is the right thing to do and it feels good, why not do it?

What is ironic about this topic is that emotion is treated completely differently when it comes to the media.  Although it is their job to tell the news (and stretch the truth), the media tends to focus much too much on drama, and it is at times ridiculous and even offense.  I will never forget when Steve Irwin died and the media asked his beautiful daughter, Bindi what she thought Steve would be saying to her at that time.  Can you get any more invasive that?  And with a child?  Bindi smartly responded (and I’m sure her mother wisely prepared her for this intrusion) that the answer to that question was private.  When the media was interviewing survivors after the 2011 tsunami in Japan some of the first words that they used to describe a man was “he looked like he’s been crying for days.”  Then there was the question of “I know it’s hard on you, but can you describe how you’re feeling right now?”  In tragedies of the past and tragedies of today this stupid question has never failed to be asked.  We as viewers see the damage, destruction and the same horrific and saddened faces of people who have suffered because the media shows them over and over.  We do not need to know how they feel because we can see it.

Good deeds of course happen everyday, and sometimes the media does capture it.  I’m sure that most have heard the story about a cop buying and giving boots to a homeless man.  Although it is great to hear good news often, I sometimes wonder why this has to be news in general.  Then I remember my past experiences and realize that it is quite rare to see something like this happen.  This is a good thing, and yet it is a reminder of something sad.  With that being said, good deeds should be done in the shadows (when it can be helped of course).  And whether we feel brave enough to do it in the open or do it when no one is looking, we can sometimes feel helpless, which can make us not help at all.  We can feel helpless because we may feel like we are not able to effectively reach those in need whether they are near or far away (so we can therefore feel like our help has no impact), or because we simply don’t carry cash to give to those in need (I rarely carry cash).  And to that I say “in honor of.”  What I mean is, if you feel like you cannot help someone for whatever reason, do something in honor of them.  For example, you can donate clothes in honor of those in natural disasters who lost everything.  You can donate blood in honor of those who lost their lives.  “In honor of” can also simply be giving someone a thought or prayer of hope and well-being.  Even if you have the money in your pocket to give to those in need, just giving them a simple blessing from the heart is doing something.  Do Something.  I promise it will make you feel good and perhaps make you a little happier.

I hope today’s post has reached you.  Let it light a flame inside of you.

Peace and Love,

Ariffa

“It’s Not That Easy”

(Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons)

Dear Readers,

Do you remember the show called Meet the Natives?  It aired in 2009 on the Travel channel, and it was about a group of men from the island of Tanna in the South Pacific.  The cameras followed them as they made trips to various areas of the world and experienced things that they never would have if they stayed in Tanna.  Examples being riding a roller coaster, going to a national park, etc, etc.

One moment that stood out to me the most was when the men took a trip to New York city’s Central Park.  While exploring the park, the men came across a homeless man sleeping on a bench.  They could not comprehend why this man was sleeping in the cold when there were so many buildings and homes surrounding them.  They also could not comprehend why other people were ignoring this man and not doing anything to help him.  Now, I haven’t seen all of the Meet the Natives episodes, but this was the first and only time that I had seen them visually upset and angry.  One of them said “I can see that there are many buildings in New York, how is it possible for a man to sleep in the street?”  Another Tribesman tried to provide an explanation for this sad situation in saying, “It is clear that nobody loves him. That’s why he is sleeping out in the cold.”

And so, I ask, should there be an excuse for homelessness?  Whatever the reason be for the man’s situation, should we accept it because he lost his job or was on drugs?  Is that what someone or anyone should deserve?  It’s interesting because we tend to think and accept things as the norm until an outsider comes along and opens our eyes.  The Tanna men’s concept was so simple: brotherly love and camaraderie.  But sadly, so sadly, it is not so simple in this world.

“It’s not so simple,” “It’s not that easy.” I unfortunately hear these words a lot.  I tend to ask a lot of questions that have seemingly easy answers and solutions such as: why is that several countries have free healthcare and we don’t?  Why is that Japan recycles all of their waste, yet we have disgusting mounds of garbage on the Earth?  Why is that commercials and schools preach that going to college will guarantee one a great career, yet those “great careers” never come for most, and those “careers” end up being extremely low-paying jobs for many.  I can go on and on.  And I can keep asking “why?”  But though the solutions may be simple, it will more often than not, tie back to whether or not it will be an inconvenience for someone or if it will mean less money in someone’s pocket.  And it is because of these things that life is not as simple as it used to be.  It is because of these things that life is not as simple as it should be.  So let me ask you: Do you accept it?

“Everyone is the same, and no one is homeless”- A Tanna Tribesman

Peace and Love

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