This guest blog post is written by Hannah Cheetham, a recent high school graduate from British Columbia. Throughout her life she has loved to write. She is now pursuing social justice related coursework at university, with the hope of going to law school in the future. Hannah was recently featured on Canadian television discussing her Storybird project. Click here to watch the interview.
Since a young age, words have always fascinated me. There are so many to choose from, and when you find that perfect word to describe that object, that feeling, that spirit, it’s a delight beyond comparison.
The four words that have inspired me, however, are not long, complicated words with specific definitions. They are simple. They are well known. But they speak.
Peace. Love. Diversity. Service.
We’ve all heard these words. We all have at least of some idea of what they mean. But when I took on an independent project in my Social Justice 12 class, I wasn’t interested in what we already know or do to demonstrate these words. I was interested in the far corners of these words: what doesn’t easily come to mind and the gritty details of their definitions and connotations.
Most of all, I was interested in what younger children did and did not know about these words. As the world works through transitioning to a highly globalized era, we must make efforts to become more connected and united as humans. I felt that these words covered four areas that are integral to developing a more united world, and passing on these ideas to children – allowing them to grow up with the ideas and share them themselves – made the most sense to me.
Originally, this project – to teach the ideas of peace, love, diversity, and service – was going to be in the form of a play that I would write, hold auditions for, and perform at the local elementary schools. However, writing plays has never come easily to me and I was worried about being able to complete the project in the time I had. I have always loved to write though, and I remembered Storybird from a project I had done in grade seven. From there, my four picture books were born: In a World that Knows Peace, What is Love?, All Around the World, and How to Be a Superhero.
These books embody what I love about words; that even with a specific definition, the connotations are endless. There are so many ways these words can be portrayed. There are so many meanings they can take on, depending on the context in which someone has grown up.
When we talk about connecting and uniting as people of one world, there isn’t one right answer. Finding the right path to take is a discussion; a journey and not a destination. We have to be willing to start the conversation though. We have to make the effort to move past any anger or resentment that we feel towards others, so that we can work together. It is not us versus them. It is all of us together.
Ultimately, that is what I hope these books will teach. When I give these books to the local elementary schools, I hope that teachers will use them to start discussions. We need to be willing to talk, and the first step to talking is realizing that there is a better, more united world that we can strive for – if we’re willing to try; if we’re willing to move past the definitions we know and learn new connotations.
Thank you, Hannah, for sharing your story with us! It has inspired all of us to use our words and actions to help our own communities become more united, welcoming, and peaceful.