In honor of International Women's Day which is today ~ March 8th ~ I have written a letter to the women of the world.
Dear Women of the World,
I have only set foot in a small handful of countries on planet earth, yet I am extremely grateful for these opportunities and experiences, as some people never travel beyond their own country's borders. I have lived in the south of France and studied there and I have been to Paris. I have traveled through Great Britain, Scotland, Ireland, Spain and the Netherlands. My travels have also included Morocco, as well as Mexico and Canada. What I know for certain is that the best experiences weren't about the museums, monuments or amazing cathedrals. The most memorable moments are about people. My favorite experiences involved interactions with living and breathing people who lived in these countries.
The most important thing I learned from meeting people in other countries is how much alike we all are. There are differences of course and I celebrate these differences. Diversity enriches this world we live in. Yet, while there may be differences in language, religion, customs, clothing, architecture, food, skin color, or the environment, it is so readily apparent that we have much in common. We are made of flesh and bone. We all must eat to survive. We all seek shelter and comforts to make our life more pleasurable. We all seek companionship in one form or another. We all have traditions. We all have some form of art in our culture that enriches our lives. We all appreciate beauty, though our opinions on what is beautiful may vary, for it is true what they say "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder."
When one realizes and values just how similar we all are it changes the way one looks at the world and feels about what is happening around the world on a global scale. Spending time with families in Morocco, which is a predominantly Muslim country, doesn't just influence how I view Morocco or Moroccans. It makes me realize that the people I met there could just as easily be just like the people I might meet in Afghanistan, Palestine or Iraq.
The book Three Cups of Tea, about American Greg Mortenson's experiences building schools for girls and boys in Pakistan and Afghanistan, is an inspirational story and provides a more intimate glimpse into the lives of the people who inhabit these countries. You get to see through the written word how much these people care and how hard they are willing to work to build schools for their children. You see them encouraging and wanting their daughters to get an education for they know the difference it can make to a village.
Whenever I hear the drums of war being beaten by one country or another I want to shout - "Enough! Who will suffer? Who will die? Who will experience loss and pain? We will! Women just like you and I! So will our children, our husbands, our brothers, our sisters, our mothers and our fathers."
When more of us women recognize that we are more alike than different, that we women are all made of the same flesh and bone, that we all are seeking enough to eat, safe shelter and some comforts, as well as companionship, then we will also see more clearly that we are one. We will understand that what hurts one, hurts another. We will also hopefully see that the successes of one woman is yet another reason for all women to celebrate.
When we recognize that we are one, this is when I believe we, as women, can make an amazing impact in the world. For example when we stand up together and say "Enough of violence and war!" I believe the world will have no choice but to listen. When we stand together against abuse and violence of any kind against women and children, and men too, we will be heard and change will happen. When we stand up against inequality and refuse to accept that women and children be treated as second class citizens we will be heard and change will happen. When we no longer remain quiet and stand by as our children and our husbands head off to war we will be heard and change will happen.
The same will be true when we stand up together and shout out loud about our joys and celebrate together those things that fill our spirits with happiness and our hearts with love. When we stand up together and in unison pronounce, "Hallelujah, Praise Jesus, Praise Mary, Praise Allah, Praise Buddah, Praise the Dalia Lama, Praise the Goddess, Praise Planet Earth, Praise the Universe" or whatever else makes you want to sing and rejoice and makes you feel connected to something greater than yourself, our voices will join together to create beautiful melodies and choruses and we will be heard by the world.
We will be heard and beautiful changes will happen.
Blessings ~ Michelle
International Women's Day is a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. In some countries like China, Russia, Vietnam and Bulgaria, IWD is a national holiday. The first IWD was run in 1911. The IWD Global Centenary is in 2011. There are currently 815 IWD events in 54 countries. Visit the official web site for IWD here.