I took a few minutes to ask Brenda about her hopes and dreams.
"What do you want to be when you grow up?" I asked.
"I want to be a doctor," she answered.
When I talk with students, I often use the "5 Whys" strategy to get a better understanding of what they are thinking and feeling. For each answer a student gives, I ask why until I have five answers to the initial question.
"Because I think it would be a good job."
"Because I like to study and I want to help people."
"Because I want to help babies grow and experience more in the United States."
"Because I want them to live."
Brenda does not want power, prestige or position. She wants to help people...live. It is as simple and as complex as that.
Her answer helped me think about “Imagine a World Without Hate”™ a video the Anti-Defamation League created to celebrate its 100th anniversary.
As John Lennon's song “Imagine” plays in the background, people read, browse and watch news with such imagined headlines as:
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 84, Champions Immigration Reform
Anne Frank Wins Nobel Prize for her 12th Novel
Harvey Milk Expands LGBT Equality Globally
Daniel Pearl, 49, Journalist, wins Pulitzer for "Uncovering Al-Qaeda"
James Byrd, Jr., 63, Jasper, TX Resident Saves Young Girl From Burning Building
This video asks a simple question: "What could these people have continued to do for the world if bigotry, hate and extremism hadn't cut their lives so short?"
It's a great question.
But the question for me, as a teacher and a writer, is not so much: "What could have been?" It is: "What can be?"
What can be for Brenda? I hope she takes up the work these people started and carries it forward with her life. She wants to become a doctor so she can help people live. With that spirit, she will help these martyrs live, too.
It is my job as a teacher and a writer not only to help students imagine a world without hate, but also to help them find the tools and the heart to build it. That is how I can build a world without hate.
Imagine...and let it be.