How to be a World Citizen

When thinking about contributing to the world in a meaningful and impactful way, we don’t always turn to ourselves for the answer. But determinedly following your interests and staying truly curious about the world just might lead to a sustainable form of humanitarianism, where your passions can serve another person in need.

This is the case for Orren Fox, 19, a chicken and beekeeper, sustainable food advocate, author, volunteer, and soon-to-be college freshman, who is off to Nepal this summer to work with the non-profit BlinkNow. His mom, Libby DeLana, is no stranger to putting one’s skills to good use—in the community and beyond. An award-winning creative director and founding partner at Mechanica, DeLana is also an avid volunteer at the Do Lectures U.S.A., an annual gathering of enlightening speakers.

We spoke with the inspiring mother-son duo to hear their thoughts on what nurtures world citizenship.

 

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Stepping aside and allowing your kids to thrive (and sometimes fail) can be a real challenge – but a rewarding one. (Photo: Libby DeLana)

FROM A PARENT’S PERSPECTIVE

1. A Gap Year Opens Their World
Our family philosophy is that a gap year is required, which might sound dogmatic, but it’s a very specific time before a person goes off to college. A moment carved out for self-introspection is life-changing. In our culture, it’s hard to say, “I’m stepping off the path,” and it takes a unique individual to do something different. We talked with our boys about “a year on, not a year off.” We believe that if you can do a little growing up before going on campus, you’ll appreciate the incredible privilege that is attending college even more. We also believe that your school shouldn’t get in the way of your education. Knowing facts and writing papers is one kind of learning, yet education can also happen while walking through a new city or working with someone with a very different perspective than your own.

2.
Get Out of Their Way
Let your kids fall on their face, get up, and start again. Allow them to be in uncomfortable situations. Of course, it can be hard to step aside and watch. But the goal is for them to discover what they are really interested in and then just support rather than drive their interests and passions however you can. Nurture curiosity; cultivate failure. This is difficult for parents and for me. I am wildly imperfect at always stepping aside. It’s a practice. I read somewhere, “Knowing the kind of person you want to be is one thing. Living it out in all of your moments is the challenge of a lifetime.”

3. Let Them Be the Teacher
Orren woke up one day and was suddenly interested in chickens and bees. We both went to bee school, and at 8 or 9 years old he started a blog on the subject. He became an expert on his own. There’s something powerful about a child at that age having all the answers. I remember him telling me, “Don’t do it this way, do it this way.” That kind of role reversal was humbling and created a really interesting dynamic. It’s powerful for a parent to say, “I don’t know.” Allowing the child to guide the way develops confidence and leadership skills, especially when they realize they have an expertise that other adults don’t. My parents did the same with me. It’s radical trust!

 

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Orren Fox showing children at BlinkNow how to keep bees. (Photo: Libby DeLana)

FROM A YOUNG ADULT’S PERSPECTIVE

1. A Blog Connects You
The nice thing about a blog is that it gets your voice out there. With the huge amount of content on the web, you can get lost in click bait and meaningless articles. I think my blog accomplished something a little different, where you can find articles that are grounded, thoughtful, and written from real life learning and first-hand experience. I started it when I first started keeping chickens in fifth grade. I was going to have a written journal, but then I thought the information might be useful to other backyard chicken keepers, so I simply made it digital. That year our class had to do an in-depth research project; mine was on factory farming. After I published my paper on the blog, the head of the Canadian poultry department commented on the post. One thing led to another, and I ended up at the White House for a forum called “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” as the guest of the then U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture. That article became a golden ticket!

2. Learn From Discomfort
You’re a lot more adaptable to a new environment than you think. I didn’t realize how resilient a person can be until I really challenged myself to go way outside my comfort zone. Not for an afternoon or a day, but a few weeks. People can cruise through life without ever being uncomfortable. They’re afraid of new things. But being uncomfortable opens you up and gives you confidence going into new situations. In a little time you know you’ll feel right at home because you’ve had this same feeling before. On college campus, this will definitely come in handy…

3. Volunteering Can Expand Your World
All the volunteering trips I’ve been on have been incredibly impactful. They obviously have to be done in a sustainable way, when you can really get to know and help a community. Last year my class went to Nicaragua with the Blue Energy Group. We visited out-of-the-way villages deep in the jungle that we wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. I’ll never forget that trip. We stayed with a tiny community whose income was made off of a huge coconut plantation. The citizens were older and they were incredibly grateful for the work we did to deliver energy, water, and sanitation to their village. The other organization that I am very committed to is BlinkNow, which is based in Surkhet, Nepal. I have worked with them on two occasions, helping to start a beekeeping practice. In both instances, the key was to seek out volunteer opportunities that were truly impactful. There are a lot to choose from—so do your research, and follow an organization in the news and on social media to get a sense of whether it’s superficial or sustainable aid.