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Crossing cultures

Several years ago, my husband and I had the opportunity to live for an extended time with the Saami (Lapp), the indigenous people of northern Scandinavia. One of the most provocative questions asked of us while we were there was, "Are we exotic enough for you?"

            It was a powerful query, because we wondered what living with the Saami would be like. It also made us think about what stereotypes they had about Americans. Our experience with this Arctic Circle culture was life-changing.

            Today, when we work with students and educators, we try to help them learn to respect cultural differences while understanding the innate similarities among all peoples. To that end, we have discovered three valuable children's magazines that introduce multiculturalism and beg to be shared by families.

            Faces encourages critical thinking as readers learn to look at other cultures --- and their own --- from new perspectives. Cobblestone revives American history and is packed with lively and compelling articles, historical photographs, and primary documents. It is a particularly important magazine as it strives to make people aware of their own history by understanding previous generations. Calliope is a journalistic passport for young minds to wander into time and bring the spirit of world history alive.

--- Carolyn Schuler

This week for families:

All Is Well in the Kingdom of Nice Sat-Sun, May 8-9. Big Theatre for Little People, Nextstage, Geva Theatre Center, 75 Woodbury Blvd, Sat 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., Sun 1 and 4 p.m. Tix: $12, $9 kids. 232-4382

Brighton Memorial Library Story times: toddlers, Mondays, 10:30 a.m.; preschoolers, Mondays, 11:30 a.m.; PJ stories, Tuesdays, 7 p.m.; toddlers and preschoolers, Fridays, 10 a.m.; families, Thursdays, 7 p.m. | Friday movie matinee, Fri, May 7, 3:30 p.m. | 2300 Elmwood Ave. 784-5300

Catholic Family Center's Lecture Series With Mary Pipher, Ph.D. Fri, May 7: Rebuilding Our Families in 2004, 7 p.m.; Sat, May 8, Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls, 10 a.m.; Asbury First, 1050 East Ave. Tix: $25-$30, $15-$20 kids. 262-7129

Henrietta Public Library Preschool storytime, Tues, May 11, 10:30-11 a.m. | Mother's Day Craft, Fri, May 7, ages 4 and up, 3:30-4:30 p.m. |

OZ Fri-Sun May 7-9. RIT/NTID Dance Company, NTID's Panara Theatre, Thurs-Sat 7:30 p.m., Sun 2 p.m. Tix: $7, $5 students, seniors, kids. 475-6254

Phillis Wheatley Community Library Thurs, May 6. Preschool storytime, 33 Dr. Samuel McCree Way, 10:30 a.m. 428-8212

Preschool Family Workshop Thurs, May 6. For ages 2.5 to 5, project, story, tour, Memorial Art Gallery, 500 University Ave, 10:30 a.m.-12 p.m. Tix: $15. 473-7720 ext 3056

Science Exploration Days Wed, May 12. For elementary and secondary students and families, interactive exhibits, live demos, Student Life Center, St. John Fisher College, 3690 East Ave, 7-9 p.m. Free. 359-5183

Seneca Park Zoo Our Fragile World, Fri-Sat, May 7-8, environmental event, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. | Creatures of the Night, Wed, May 12, 6-8 p.m. Tix: $8.75 per person. Preregister. | 2222 St. Paul St. 467-9453

Strong Museum Mother's Day, Sat-Sun, May 8-9, crafts, Sat 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun 12-5 p.m. | Monday Kicks for Ages 2-6, learn through feelings, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. | Wednesdays for Tots, Wed, May 12, puppet show, 9:30 a.m. Tix: $4, $3 kids. | Making American Music, Wed, May 12, best of the big band era, 7:30 p.m. Sold out. | One Manhattan Square, 263-2700, www.strongmuseum.org.

Information on museum exhibits can be found in the calendar's Museum section.

Blessed task versus unholy distraction

But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to help me." But he answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing..."

--- Luke 10:40-42

Irrigators guide the water. Fletchers bend the arrow shaft. Wood the carpenters bend. Themselves the wise ones tame.

--- The Dhammapada (6.5)

            My family will soon enter our second annual no-sport summer. We decided unanimously last year not to play or coach summer league sports. It was a difficult decision, but the pace had gotten too frantic --- our time together too compromised.

            I had turned into a Biblical Martha: banging pots and pans around, tossing something resembling dinner into my kids' laps as the minivan careened down the road. Our "quality time" conversations revolved around the ticking clock and the whereabouts of shin guards. None of us benefited from the experience.

            Jesus didn't discount the importance of Martha's work, but criticized her cancerous outlook in doing it: distracted, frenzied, and building resentments. She cooked dinner for lazy ingrates, cleaned up behind thoughtless slobs, and probably mowed the lawn because nobody else would do it. She humbly served on the surface, but hatefully seethed just beneath.

            Maybe you've been there and done that. Maybe you've let blessed tasks curdle into unholy distractions, as have Martha and I.

            Simplify. There is need of only one thing. Embrace always the holy meaning of mundane life.

--- Rev. Corey Keyes

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