he built a zoo

One of the things to love about the Olympics is that it lifts the awareness of the peoples of the world.

But a bit like the rainy season, or springtime, the season of the Olympics passes and we all return to the national corners from whence we came. What then? How do we keep alive an awareness of the peoples of the world once the sights and sounds of a closing ceremony begin to fade?

A single text should be sufficient. Embedded in it can be found such grand truths.  'From one man God created all the peoples of the world' (Acts 17.26). Common origin. Same imago dei. Equal dignity. One family. Racism repugnant. Injustice unacceptable. Poverty avoidable. Argument over. Case closed. Game. Set. Match.

But that text doesn't seem to be sufficient. People seem to need help to reach this destination...

As Barby and I travel around New Zealand, we are using two approaches. One is to pick a scene from the biblical story. For example, Mary and the baby Jesus is a good one to use. Then search Google for paintings on this scene from different cultures. Watch how the peoples of the world make it their own. It is beautiful. It helps make us less preoccupied with our selves and our cultures and more open to other perspectives. Here are two of the paintings we are using (NB: I can't tell you where they are from, because we are running a little competition. But here's a hint: they are from two countries whose names start with the same letter!).

The other approach is to use food. Learning about the food people eat in a MasterChef-world is a great way to progress an awareness of other peoples. Barby and I are sticking with the familiar - street food, or chaat, made famous in (Old) Delhi where we were based as teenagers. All going well, people will taste samosa, dahi puri, jalebi, kara pori, aloo tikki, mango lassi - and then that queen of Delhi chaat, the pani puri. (However, all did not go well the other night when our communication with the local Indian restaurant was confused and we arrived a night earlier than they expected!).

But I glimpsed a third approach with my grandson, Micah. 'C'mon, Grandpa, let's make a zoo'. Off we went to his bedroom where I watched him go to work. He has loved animals for years (well, let's make that three years!). He has a huge box of them. I sit there and watch him make his zoo. First he places storybooks on different parts of the carpet. They become 'enclosures', as he expresses it. Then he opens up his book of continental maps on which are placed sketches of the animals who live in that continent. Off he goes ... filling his 'Africa enclosure', his 'South America enclosure' etc - all over the carpet of his bedroom floor.

Slowly, his box of animals is being dispersed into the various enclosures of the world. There is even a NZ enclosure, with a kiwi and a couple of cows! The time comes when only a lone wolf is left. 'Where shall I put the wolf?' As I am getting the hang of this building of zoos, I feel an inner surge of confidence to volunteer my thoughts on where the lone wolf might go to be less lonely. 'The North America enclosure?' ... only to receive the response, 'Silly Grandpa, not North America, the Arctic enclosure.' If Grandpa had a tail, it would be between his legs...

Yes, I know - the animals of the world are hardly the peoples of the world, but Micah is well on his way towards appreciating how the created world is full of diversity - a diversity to be celebrated, protected and engaged.

nice chatting


PS: And yes, We Bought a Zoo is one of my favourite movies.


Heather said…
May I plug a resource I've put together that people may find helpful? I blogged recently about resources that have helped me to 'see the world' without leaving my bed. Books, mostly, but also some podcasts and blogs (including yours, and at least one I discovered through you!). It's here:


And that's so neat about Micah and his zoo - and I'm intrigued to know where the paintings are from :-)
not a wild hera said…
Thanks for this! I'm enjoying joining in your chats with chaat from afar :)

Okay, I'm going with Kazakhstan and Kenya (can you tell us know that the c and c are finished!?)

Love Micah's zoo game! I think he and James would have a fabulous time discussing zoological taxonomies!
Paul said…
To my dear friend living in Thailand, it is Thailand and Tanzania :) :)

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