The other night we got into a big conversation with some locals in Beijing, China. It's stuck with us. Our new friends were expressing their frustration over government mandated web censorship. Most irritating to them? The fact that they can't (legally) visit sites like Facebook and Twitter. Weird to think that happens, isn't it?
This turned out to be only the beginning of a conversation about China's controversial human rights record. Turns out, our new friends are most discouraged by their lack of choice. They talked of no religious freedom, no political freedom, no freedom of the press and no freedom in family planning (they are limited to one child).
"We are basically told, at least officially, how to live our lives and how to define everything," one said. Not surprisingly, this has a detrimental effect on their overall well-being and feeling of satisfaction. It was fascinating for us to learn more about this, as we've been focusing so much on wellness this month.
Anyhow, our conversation about this maddening reality led us to a huge realization. Wait a second, I take that back. Not as much a huge realization as it was a huge acknowledgement of something that we take for granted – our ability to largely control the way we live our lives and to define what matters to us.
In honor of that freedom, here are our top three rejiggered definitions.
1. Family is not determined by blood.
Of course, family matters. But, to us, real family has little to do with blood relations. If either one of us had intolerant parents – parents that didn't accept us for who we are – we wouldn't have a relationship with them. Period. We're lucky to have decent family members. That doesn't stop us, though, from making it clear that we have a zero tolerance for intolerance policy. If you're not accepting of who we are than you are telling us that you want nothing to do with us. If that's the case, we won't waste your time.
Our Family Rule: Have no tolerance for intolerance.
2. Community is not determined by location.
We're all connected as world citizens, and we've got to think beyond our own self interest and watch out for one another. Stewardship starts in our own community but doesn't have borders. The distribution of income is particularly wonky in China (so we've been learning from our friends). This fact keeps many people focusing – by necessity – on the small picture. The two of us are able to move freely around the world; we're able to have a big picture point of view. The world is our community, so it's our responsibility.
Our Community Rule: Think beyond neighborhood, city and country.
3. Citizenship is not determined by paperwork.
To us, citizenship isn't defined in a legal sense because that basically boils down to winning the birth lottery. Some of the most engaged Americans we know aren't recognized as legal citizens. Similarly, some of the most privileged people we know don't behave like the best citizens. Our new friends in Beijing reminded us how important it is to be engaged, vocal members of society, creating the culture you want for future generations. You become the way you live your life. Is passivity worth it?
Our Citizenship Rule: Judge a person by his/her contribution – not by paperwork.
What about you? Have you challenged any commonly held definitions in the interest of creating a better world.