Today is World Humanitarian Day, declared by the United Nations in 2008, to give
tribute to ones who died in the 2003 bombing of the U.N. Headquarters in Baghdad.
On that day, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to Iraq was killed,
Sergio Vieira de Mello and 21 others who were not in any military personnel duty,
but were public servants. These ‘voiceless victims” gave up their lives. This honors
all those who are negotiators, compromisers, and humanitarians who chose such lofty
goals as World Peace as part of their life’s purpose.
World Humanitarian Day, August 19th, is a wonderful result of collaboration
between countries. The country where Sergio Vieira de Mello originated, Brazil,
along with Switzerland, France and Japan helped to steer, then ‘table’ the draft
of the resolution. International foundations worked tirelessly to promote this
and it came about six years ago.
Donations, to UNICEF, an organization that has Sudan at the top of their ‘needy’
countries’ list are welcome. They ask this to be done in honor of this celebration
for the victims of crimes against humanitarians and their families.
A meaningful expression that I found while looking this up was:
“Light up your map” by supporting and sending money to UNICEF, with “our global
advocates” in mind.
Humanitarian. What an inspiring and amazing kind of person.
I hope this post will encompass this theme, along with including my own
observations and something recently discussed among my grandchildren.
After we watched Fievel, in his original role in the animated children’s film
from 1986, my grandsons were talkative. Lots of subjects came out of this
movie, my introduction to the fact that they had immigrants in their family
tree, from my side of the family, (their mother’s side) from Germany, Sweden,
Scotland and England. Then, one of the two boys, has African as one fourth
of his blood, while the other boy has many overlapping countries from his
Daddy’s and Mommy’s sides, of the German, Swede, Scot and English tribes.
While we were happily going all over the subject, they mentioned that their
Mimi and Poppy had the song, “Somewhere Out There,” as part of their wedding
music. This is the theme song from the movie, “An American Tail.”
In my oldest grandson’s memory, he came up with “Coming to America,” as a
song he had learned from his music teacher at school. I was amazed, that he put
these two songs together. Since this song is also about immigration. I mentioned
that it is one of my all-time favorite songs, sung by Neil Diamond.
They, of course, said, “Who?”
I didn’t even try to get them to recall who he was, since that would mean a whole
Just for your information, this song came out before, “An American Tail,” the
children’s film about immigration. “Coming to America,” was on the soundtrack
for the movie and album, “The Jazz Singer” (1980). The album’s hit single, made it
to the top of the charts, in 1981, making Diamond’s sixth ‘hit single’ at the time.
The theme of the song is to embrace the history of immigration, starting from
the 1900’s up until today. Interestingly, one of the lyrics’ passages includes his
repeating, “They’re coming to America… Today! They’re coming to America…”
When Neil Diamond performs this song live, he substitutes this audience
participation phrase, “Stand up for America… Today! Stand up for America…”
When we talked about their own heritage, my oldest grandson asked why is it
that he had overheard this question while recently at the zoo,
“Why don’t people talk English? If they can’t talk English, they should go back
to where they came from!”
I was looking at him, hoping and praying he would not reveal that it was
anyone he knew that said these rather ‘hateful’ words.
The next thing Sky said surprised me. He had apparently been thinking for some time
about the comments. This was only two weeks’ ago, when his parents had taken both
boys for an employee appreciation day at Zoombezi Bay, part of the Columbus Zoo.
Skyler said, “If people feel more comfortable talking to each other, then it should
be okay to use their country’s language, don’t you think, Nana?”
I smiled and said,
“My Filipino friends talk English with their spouses and almost always with
their children, too. But you know Felda and her two children, Kridia Dawn
The boys looked serious and nodded.
The youngest one piped up,
“Maybe they like to hear their Mommy speak her language if she sings songs.”
(Felda does have a beautiful voice, they had heard it at one of their many parties,
because part of the ‘games’ is to sing karaoke, adults and children, too.)
“Exactly! Good job, Micah!” I exclaimed.
I continued to explain why my good Filipino friends use their ‘homeland’s
“Felda wants her kids to know what her language was, so they will recognize
some words, each time they travel back to see their grandmother there in the
Skyler got pensive again, my ‘serious thinker!’
“I am so glad you live close to us. By speaking Filipino with their grandma,
this would make her so happy, wouldn’t it? Do they talk on the phone or
Skype with her?”
I think my grandkids are all so ‘tech-savvy’ I forget about this new ‘age’ stuff.
“Yes, I am sure they do. But I will ask about this, I have seen them Skype at
work, for Felda’s or Mary Jane’s mother’s birthday together. I don’t know why
they would not Skype with the children to see her and share with her, at home.”
I was winding down on this subject and added this comment,
“They sit separately at work, while eating lunch and on their breaks, to
chatter happily and quickly about their personal lives.”
Skyler mentioned that it would be ‘cool’ to be able to have a hidden spy code
language, to talk to your friends in.
“So, when people say these things, I think they may be misunderstanding why
the ones who are using another language are doing this. A different reason may
be, they are overhearing visitors from another country or ‘foreigners.’ Just like
we like to travel, someday I hope you will go to another country. You may wish to
use the language of that country but you may look for someone who understands
English. When foreigners visit, they seek out our cultural places, like museums
and zoos. Sometimes, there is no one who knows their language but there are
special headphones and language tapes, to help them to understand what they
are seeing. ”
It was funny how Micah was taking this all in, which is unusual. He interrupted
my final statement to interject,
“What do you think about when people ask me if my Daddy is a terrorist? Are
they trying to be funny? It makes him so mad!”
Micah’s Daddy’s father is black. For some reason, even when he wears his hair
in an ‘afro’ or braids, people think he looks like someone from Iraq or Iran. I
tried not to smile because he’s made some jokes about trying to go to the airport
and being held back, if he were ever wishing to travel internationally. He will use
a Robert Kline kind of comment, “I just picture the guards taking me down, then
I am lying on the floor using my Ohio accent, telling them I was born here!” I know
he doesn’t think it is funny and under the comic words, he is hiding his pain.
“It is not meant as an insult. If anything, the best way to answer people about
this, is to say, “Of course not! That’s my Daddy!”
I also told Micah that being able to see humor in such things and make light of
them, will carry him far in life.
Skyler summed this all up in one fantastic phrase, which he admits may have
come from the children’s animated movie, “Tarzan:”
“They are part of us. We are part of them.”
Referring to the song Phil Collins wrote for “Tarzan” (1999):
“You’ll Be in My Heart.”
“Why can’t they understand the way we feel?”
(The gorilla mother singing to human baby, Tarzan)
“They just don’t trust what they can’t explain.
I know we’re different but deep inside us,
We’re not that different at all.”
As far as language, it is true that~
I wish my Grandmother Mattson had taught me some German.
I wish my Grandfather had taught me some Swedish.
I watch that one television show, “Welcome to Sweden,” just to learn a few phrases.
I know my Dad learned a little Scottish and used a few phrases that are more ‘slang’
than anything else.
Matthew 5:9: “Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they will be called Children of God.”
Who do you consider a great humanitarian?
Do you feel we need to be more or less understanding to others, when it comes
to language barriers?
Be honest, we can learn from each other’s points of view.