Six children, six different faiths … while their holy days and festivals vary, the one thing they share – that we all share, regardless of the specifics of our backgrounds – are special foods we share with family and friends to celebrate memorable occasions.
Francesca is Christian and eats turkey for Christmas and chocolate eggs at Easter. Jacob is Jewish and shares challah during Shabbat and matzah during Passover. Aneesa is Muslim, so she only eats foods that are halal, and when she is old enough, she, too, will fast during Ramadan. Francis is Buddhist, and he helps prepare and serve meals to the monks and nuns because Buddhists believe that giving food is an honor. Akhil is Hindu and is vegetarian because Hindus practice ahimsa, or non-violence, including toward animals. And Tavleen is Sikh, and Sikh families take turns preparing the langar, the communal meal everyone enjoys after service.
Originally released by a British press, American readers might notice some slight variations, especially in vocabulary: for example, for Christians across the Pond, the Tuesday before Lent is called Shrove Tuesday, while their American cousins tend to call it Fat Tuesday, or more so Mardi Gras, a name which is French is origin. That variations exist even within the same faith, is a great reminder that god (in all his/her supreme incarnations) is not in the details … while the traditions, rules, texts, foods may be different, the bonds of family and the respect for community are the same throughout.
The overemphasis on our religious differences surely contributed to the country’s latest hate crime. As we mourn for the victims and their families of the Sikh temple shooting in Oak Creek, Wisconsin on August 5, 2012, we need regular reminders that the shared ideals supporting family and community are what should bring us all together.
Through words and photographs, author and artist choose six children and their families, each of whom could easily be your best friend, your neighbor, your colleague, your child’s buddy. At the risk of sounding Pollyanna-ish, gazing at these children’s open, trusting faces offers great hope. Surely our faith in nurturing our families – especially our children – and creating community, can bond us beyond our labels so that we might all celebrate our individual uniqueness … together.
Readers: Children, Middle Grade