December 5, 2008, was International Volunteer Day. I went to St. Paul, Minnesota, to attend a function organized by the Global Citizens Network, http://www.globalcitizens.org/index.htm in commemoration of this important Day. I had known about the GCN for a few years, through visiting their website. I know, for example, about the work they are doing in several parts of Tanzania. Yet I had never met these people. I therefore looked forward to attending this event in St. Paul.
I was happy to meet the people who came to the event, including members of the Board of the GCN and volunteers. We discussed the concept of global citizenship: what does it mean to be a global citizen? Do we, as individuals, consider ourselves global citizens? I thought these were very meaningful questions, and we discussed them at length, exploring the challenges and opportunities of encountering other cultures, learning to understand them on their own terms, discovering the differences and, above all, learning that our own ways, perspectives and values are not the only valid ones. Accepting the differences and being comfortable in the knowledge that, despite those differences, we all share a common humanity, is part of being a global citizen. We exemplify our global citizenship by working with others as respectful and ethical agents of social change in our communities and around the world. Global citizenship entails acknowledging and accepting all human beings as citizens of the world we all live in.
It was wonderful to be with people who are so dedicated to doing positive things in the world, learning, sharing gifts and resources, and knowing that they, in turn, are enriched by their encounters and experiences with other people around the world.
Amidst the discussions and reflections, we watched slides showing GCN volunteers on building projects in Nepal and Kilomeni in Tanzania.