When I excitedly opened the cardboard tube containing the new Children Inspire Design map delivered to my door, my first reaction was perplexity. The world map had no countries identified on it, but did have whimsical animals and people. What's the good of a map without, at minimum, national boundaries?
So I stared at it for probably a minute, trying to understand what artist, mother and social entrepreneur, Rebecca Peragine, whom I admire, might have been thinking by making this minimalist map.
"The earth is but one country..."
Then I soon remembered a quotation from Baha'u'llah that has inspired my life: "The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens." I had thought about what this sentence means in terms of breaking down barriers for getting to know diverse people. I had thought about how seeing the earth in its entirety, as one common home, can help to shed the fear might be tacked on to the unknown places, people and belief systems that arise when we see the earth through a divisive lens. I had thought about how it offers a mindset that rejects an "us against them" mentality, and how useful it can be to embrace this idea early in life.
But, I don't think I had ever thought about it literally -- what its physical representation on a world map could look like or mean to me -- until I saw this map. Suddenly, the absence of national boundary lines offered a sense of expansiveness, of freedom and the possibility for peace. It connected with a concept that I consider to be deeply spiritual: If we are all God's children, then efforts toward realizing our oneness are tantamount to an act of faith -- like a prayer.
"Compassion for the earth and all who inhabit it"
The next thing that struck me about this map was its title, "Global Compassion," and the message at the bottom: "Compassion for the earth and all who inhabit it." When we aren't bound by the lines that divide us, compassion comes more naturally.
When "compassion" enters a child's vocabulary early in life, they have a greater opportunity to practice and understand it, to become experts at it. A thoughtful initiative to advance us in this direction is the Charter for Compassion, which begins:
The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.
One phrase that I had glossed over in previous readings of the opening of the charter: "to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world" took on a new meaning for me. Without the traditional boundaries encumbering us, when "the earth is but one country" we can more easily step aside from the center of our world, and do things that are greater than our solitary selves.
The map that gives back
In the spirit of global compassion, artist Rebecca Peragine didn't stop with making her map; she's also donating 100 percent of the proceeds to Future Fortified. Each print gives a month's worth of nutrients to 20 children in Kenya, so we can each help make a dent in the alarming fact that two billion people around the world lack access to the essential nutrients they need to lead healthy lives. See a lovely short video about the effort here; they've already surpassed 3,800 children with nutrients for a month.
(Photo Credit: Children Inspire Design and Future Fortified)
I asked Rebecca about her inspiration and she said:
I chose to leave out national boundaries because I wanted to focus on the life of the print, meaning the animals and people who inhabit it. The message "compassion for the earth and all who inhabit it" gives a sense of oneness, and I didn't think showing geographical divides would support that.
I realize it may sound naïve to imagine that hanging a simple wall map can start a life-long conversation with our children, to start envisioning and building a better world. But I firmly believe it -- because I've seen it happen. I've spoken with hundreds, maybe thousands, of adults who remember a globe, map or picture on their parent's desk or the fridge or their walls or at a friend's home that spurred them to consider their wider world. It made them more open to making friends who were different from them, changed their course of study, their career path or the way they raise their children.
These small steps toward mindful compassion we take today can open up a whole new world -- perhaps one that is less focused on our boundaries and more on our possibilities.