In order to fire up conversation in the ESL (English as a second language) classes I give, I introduce questions that are likely to inspire a variety of opinions. Yesterday we were discussing the following statement:
No one chooses their country of birth, so it is foolish to be proud of it. Agree or disagree.
One student pointed out that it was right to be proud because in that way, we honor our ancestors who came before us.
Another student agreed in principal but since the world is divided into countries, why not be proud of "yours".
I stated my opinion that if we are proud of our country, we are really stating that our country or "we" are superior to others.
And then one of the quieter students spoke up. I disagree, she said, because I believe that I did choose this life.
I thought "Ooooh, now we can delve into some deeper philosophical stuff." At the same time, the other students were exchanging "she's crazy" glances at each other.
A cursory discussion ensued touching on Buddhism, and tales seen on "mystery files" about past lives.
With class time waning, I seized the moment and asked the class to do a small writing assignment for homework:
Regardless of what you think about reincarnation, I want you to ASSUME that you did indeed choose this life.
Now write down why you chose this particular life. Minimum 200 words.
I'm interested to hear their thoughts because I hope that it becomes a lesson in gratitude.
After all, if we experience bad situations, but we "know" that we chose this life, the bad situations become less about "why me?" and more about, "what am I supposed to be learning from it."
And that my friends, is a better perspective, regardless of the "truth".