Sunday, April 17, 2011

It's a Small World After All

It's a world of laughter
A world of tears
It's a world of hopes
And a world of fears
There's so much that we share
That it's time we're aware
It's a small world after all 


When I was a child, my family made annual treks to Disneyland, where my favorite ride was "It's a Small World," a magical boat cruise through world villages, serenaded by the theme song in a variety of languages. True, it might have been considered cheesy by some. But I still remember gazing at the happy faces of the singing dolls and feeling a lump in my throat as I wished the world really could be that happy.

Every once in a while, though not often enough, I experience a moment that makes me realize that our world really is small, and I am grateful to find how similar we can be, even to someone who lives half a world away.

On Friday, I met Zehui, a University of Arkansas student who is here from China to obtain her master's degree in Communications. She is working on a research paper on the Japanese-American internment camps and after finding my blog and website, emailed me to ask if we could meet to discuss my research.

I don't know what was more exciting - that someone other than friend or family had spent some time on my website or that someone was interested in the subject matter of my book, Broken Dolls.

I asked Zehui how she became interested in the internment. She told me she had originally planned to do her paper on the Nanking Massacre, but while researching the special collections of the university library, she became intrigued by information she found on the internment of Japanese Americans. I understood, having also found fascinating archives, including journal entries, letters, newspaper articles, etc.

Zehui told me she was surprised that so few people know very much about the internment, and that most did not know there had been two camps in Arkansas, Jerome and Rohwer. In doing my research, I too, have been surprised at how unfamiliar people are with this part of our history. However, most people I've spoken to have a desire to learn more about it.

But my real "small world" moment came when Zehui told me she thought it was important for history to be reported objectively and without personal opinion or emotion. It is the very thought I have had myself about history, an opinion that was born fom reading the book, "Lies My Teacher Told Me," as well as traveling to other countries and seeing the contrasts in how history is reported.

Zehui and I both believe that the past must be reported objectively. It's tempting to teach historical events with a "nationalistic" tone, and I will admit that I have been one to be drawn to the nationlism. But we both agreed, that if we don't report history as it happened, without spin or fear of how it will "make us look," we will not learn its lessons and are destined to repeat it.

Zehui's and my histories are likely very different. Not only are we from different countries, we are from different generations. In fact, she is probably younger than my own two children. But, I left our meeting feeling we had much in common, and I was grateful for the chance to get to know someone who is from the other side of our very small world.

There is just one moon
And one golden sun
And a smile means
Friendship to ev'ryone
Though the mountains divide
And the oceans are wide
It's a small world after all


  1. Thanks, Jan! I have a pronounced tendency to drift off in dark and cynical directions, and need some help sometimes rejoining humanity. So I'm in your debt for reminding me that it's a small world and distances--in several dimensions--can be bridged.

  2. Thanks, ed_quixote. We all need to be reminded of our commonalities at times, especially in today's world.

  3. Thanks so much for sharing this. Gave me a good, warm feeling to read it.