In our current geopolitical climate, it is becoming increasingly evident just how important it is these days to be a “global citizen.”
Here in our own country, we have different political factions debating the merits of immigration, and conversely, the restriction of such.
Across the sea, we watch tragedies unfold, like the attacks in Brussels this week, which demonstrate the necessity of working together with our international counterparts to ensure a greater public safety.
Yet, despite our shared goals of safety and security, there has yet to be a consensus as to how we bring these things to pass. With words like “fascist,” “xenophobe,” and “socialist” being thrown around on a regular basis, a few other words are called to mind – specifically, the infamous phrase uttered by Rodney King: “Can’t we all just get along?
The truth of the matter is that it is hard to “get along” with those we don’t understand, particularly when we are separated by great distances and vastly different cultures. By striving to learn about those who may be different from us, we go a long way towards fostering the type of understanding that facilitates better relations.
To that end, local yoga instructor and debut author Jill Apperson Manly is doing her part to bridge the gap, with her new children’s book, “Nothando’s Journey.”
Manly, formerly an overseas elementary teacher, has had the opportunity to learn about and appreciate many different cultures. Teaching in Swaziland, France, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and Italy, she has truly become a student of the world’s cultures. But, it was one former pupil in particular, a young girl from Swaziland named Nqobile, who helped inspire the story.
Nqobile was a quiet girl who spoke little but was always studying the world around her. In Manly’s book, we meet Nothando, a quiet girl who, like Nqobile, is also hesitant in new situations. Nothando and her brother, Jabu, are journeying to the Reed Festival, where Nothando will join with other girls to perform a traditional dance for the royal family.
Along the way, Nothando and Jabu come across many animals, and in copying their unique stretches and mannerisms,
Nothando begins to feel at ease, and connected with many inner strengths represented by the animals – she feels steady as an elephant, brave as a baboon, and calm as a fish eagle.
By incorporating the movements of the animals, Manly is introducing young readers to simple yoga poses, designed to help them feel centered, and more connected to their inner selves. Subscribing to the belief that practicing yoga and mindfulness has countless benefits for children and adults alike, Manly says, “As you become the observer of your internal world, and the comings and goings of sensations, thoughts, emotions, beliefs, you know you are something more than all of this. You begin to capture the moment and a deeper sense of YOU.”
Teaching children to connect with their own emotions is only one goal of the book, filled with beautiful artwork by illustrator, Alyssa Casey. Manly hopes to also connect young readers with children from another culture. To help accomplish this, she is launching a companion pen pal program with local schoolchildren.
Already introduced at Harbor View Elementary here in Newport, the program will connect students with their counterparts at a school in Swaziland, some 10,000 miles away. Both classes will have the opportunity to read “Nothando’s Journey,” and share their thoughts on the book with one another, paving the way for future conversations.
By empowering children to first love themselves and embrace their own emotions, Manly is equipping them to more easily be able to respect and appreciate others as well, even in the face of the things that may divide them. In sharing this message of love and acceptance, she is providing an invaluable tool towards helping us reach that place where maybe one day, we CAN “all just get along.”
For more information on Jill Apperson Manly, her book, or the pen pal program, please visit nothandosjourney.com.
Edie Crabtree is an avid reader and the mother of three active boys. She can be reached at [email protected].