When we hear or read somewhere that there are seven billion people on Earth, we don’t particularly understand what that means.
Our brains can’t compute just how big that number is, just how big the world is, and so it’s difficult to constantly keep in mind that we are not the default society. The closest we can get to grasping the truth behind this number comes when we collide with people from different countries, languages, cultures, and religions. By finding that the other people on this planet come from completely different worlds, we inch towards understanding the mass of humans and experiences that live outside of us every day. We foster a certain global awareness—a citizenship that allows us to open our thinking past our own perspectives—and an ability to beat in sync with the heart of the world.
Baylor’s efforts towards International Week in early March truly extended to students and faculty the opportunity to delve into these different worlds. Nearly every day in the Probasco Academic Center (PAC), teachers, students, and non-profit organizations delivered presentations surrounding their work or their lives outside of the United States, allowing for audience members to delve into strengthening their ideas for commitment to global citizenship. Moreover, each of the presenters illustrated to us how few we actually are, granting us reach of the incredibly valuable recognition of the fact that we don’t know as much as we think we do.
For example, most of us don’t know what it’s like to be in a country with a language completely foreign to our brains. We travel with guides and translators who guarantee our comfort, but subsequently shield us from facing our own lack of effort or awareness. We read stories of and watch movies about people who differ from us, but feel safe from the awkwardness of any dichotomy thanks to the protection offered by the screen. In this sense, we’re offered every opportunity to avoid learning; and so it is remarkable that Madame Ruth Ann Graham, who chairs the World Languages Department and organized International Week, created an environment that encouraged us to know more, to dive into the different worlds, to grasp the mass behind the number.
Now that the week is over, we can carry our amplified appreciations of humanity out into our endeavors and remember, as my one of my favorite authors Salman Rushdie writes, that “the only people who see the whole picture” are “the ones who step out of the frame.”