Character Corner: Openness– musings, quotes, and parenting tips from


Orleana has always said that she wants her kids, Peter and Edwin, to be curious open minded citizens of the world.  Even though they are only three and five, she exposes them to the rich diversity of our human heritage.  She brings home folktales and real life stories from other countries.  She takes the boys to cultural festivals and ethnic restaurants and has enrolled them in an economically diverse preschool.

But there’s one thing Orleana herself isn’t open minded about:  her own background.  She grew up among Christian fundamentalists and is an outspoken critic of her old beliefs.  Not long ago, she overheard Peter saying to Edwin, “Christians are bad.”  Orleana stopped in her tracks.  Ouch.  In reality, her own perspective is much more nuanced and complex, but what is she modeling for her kids?


What is openness?

Openness means keeping our minds and hearts available for new experiences, ideas, and relationships. It means working to move beyond the boundaries of the familiar, in particular the walls that can be erected by tribe and tradition.

Openness and curiosity are two of the primary conditions for discovery. Openness feels risky, because it means venturing onto unfamiliar ground, but can also be full of unexpected delights. When we are open, we notice that life is constantly presenting us with new information and opportunities for growth.

Five Quotes to contemplate, discuss and share.

Begin challenging your own assumptions. Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in awhile, or the light won’t come in.
–Alan Alda
Truth springs from an argument among friends.
In the case of good books, the point is not how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you.
—Mortimer Adler
I live my life in widening circles that reach out across the world. I may not complete this last one but I give myself to it.
–Rainer Maria Rilke
Personally I’m always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught.
–Winston Churchill
Bringing it home to your kids
1.  Have new food night once/week:  include one food item that none of you have tasted.  It can be something small like some spiced nuts or an unfamiliar fruit to sample.  Make a game out of everyone taking at least one bite.
2.  Welcome an unfamiliar family into your home every so often for dinner:  a new neighbor or colleague or a volunteer at your child’s school.  Eating together is a powerful and ancient form of breaking down boundaries and creating community.
3.  Balance “stranger danger” messages with friendly encounters in your neighborhood.  Ask a question or offer a compliment in the grocery line.  Get to know a cashier over time.  Doorbell for a cause you care about, and take your child along.
4.  Discover other cultures together.  Check out books about children whose lives are very different from your own.  Once your children can read start renting family-friendly foreign films.
5.  At times when you are feeling a bit judgmental about religion or politics or whatever pushes your buttons, remember that your opinions loom larger than life in the minds of your children. Better and worse become good and bad. Two people who simply disagree can be seen by a child as one good person and one bad.  Thoughtful conversations (and frank disclosure of your own biases) can help your kids to grow beyond such caricatures.

Photo by: Claudio Palomo

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