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Better learn the world

As you start this week, may you take the time to look beyond the four walls of your home. May you open your door, mentally walk outside, and take in more of the world. May you be intentional with your brain cells and your precious time, and give some of them to the world around you.

And when I say “world,” I mean, the world. The actual world. Earth. After you read this benediction, click to a new tab on your browser, and go to a news site. Click to the international news section, pour yourself a cup, and read. Sip and read. Learn something about another place, preferably one four-plus digits away and would require a plane or a canoe to trek there.

Read, and learn. Find something you don’t yet know; dig deep to better understand something happening right now, somewhere else. If it doesn’t make sense, don’t gloss it over. Dig a little deeper. Copy and paste that confusing word; google it. Find out why the U.N. takes such-and-such a stance, and be willing, if necessary, to let it lead you down a path that ends at Wikipedia learning the very history of the thing, or maybe to your corner bookshop where you discover a new author passionate about that land/place/issue.

I know, you’re busy. Who has time to read about a crisis in Africa when you’ve got a minor crisis in the kitchen and the laundry room, the cubicle and the upcoming presentation? I get it. But yeah… make the time. You’ve got it.

The next time when you’re waiting for something today, read something—your laptop, the newspaper on the end table, the New York Times on your phone, whatever. Be intentional with your time. Become a better student of the world; don’t just let someone else understand all those governmental, international words. Know just a little bit more today about the world in which you live than you did yesterday. And then do it again tomorrow.

And also, don’t turn a blind eye when something settles unwell. Look deep in to those brown eyes in the picture at the refugee camp, the farmer whose land will be taken. Look, and learn. And hurt (or maybe, celebrate, depending on the situation). Whatever you do, whatever it is you read, get into it. Learn, because I know you care. I know you do. And the more you understand, the more you’ll care—and then the better equipped you’ll be to change the world.

I hesitate to give you take-away links, because I want you to find something yourself. Plus, this benediction will ring true a year from now, too, and the globe will have shifted a bit then. So go, find something. And learn. We need people who care beyond their four walls—I nominate US to do the job.

Open a new tab, and go read the international news (one of my favorite sources is BBC International, but you can go wherever). Then come back here, and leave a comment and tell me something you read.

Psst, Houstonians… I’ll be in your fair city TONIGHT! Come join me at Café Agora at 6:30 p.m., buy a drink, and let’s hang! I’d love to get to know you a little. Bring a book if you’d like me to sign it, and I’ll have a limited few to sell for fifteen bucks (but it’s totally not necessary just to come by and say hi) (they really will be limited, so your best bet is to buy it at your bookstore in advance) (let’s use some more parenthesis, shall we?) (oh, and bring your kids! Mine will be there, happy to play).

Reading Time:

3 minutes





  1. Angela Mills

    Confession: I am so guilty of getting my news from Facebook! I clicked over to BBC and read about vigilantes in Mexico taking Apatzingan from the knights of Templar cartel. I am seriously interested in Mexico after a missions trip there this summer. The article led to several others, and I’m following the story now.

    Thanks for this reminder, I used to love to read the paper and it’s been years. I need to set a better example for my girls, too!

  2. Jill

    Before I got married and had kids, I was so good about reading the NY Times online. After reading your post I went to their site and was flooded with a sense of refreshment! With 4 kids 4 and under, I long for my days of living in Boston (born & raised) that involved leisurely drinking cups of coffee with the Times spread out on a table. Anyways, I read about Bangladesh. It’s dear to me as I traveled for 4 months through the country. I learned about a couple who is being tried for the deaths of over 100 people who died in their garmet factory because they couldn’t escape a fire. So awful. Thanks again for writing this…I need to start this habit again 🙂
    PS can’t wait to read your book! It should arrive any day. would love for you to come to coeur d’alene, Idaho on your west coast trip!

    • Tsh

      I miss those newspaper-spread-out days, too… but I think it’s also good to remember that we don’t necessarily always need hours of leisurely time to still be a student of the world; that 15 minutes here and there is enough. But yes, I know what you mean. 🙂

      And I love Coeur D’Alene! I’m routinely surprised by how beautiful Idaho is…

  3. Heather

    Reading the news is definitely a favorite of mine. Not many people share that love though. There is nothing better than flipping through all the stories going on everywhere. I also have a weakness for CNBC’s squawk box…officially outed myself as a total nerd now 🙂 I like to know that what is going on in the US is just such a small percentage of what is happening in the world as a whole.

    • Tsh

      “…what is going on in the US is just such a small percentage of what is happening in the world as a whole.” <-- Yep. This.

  4. Sarah Rudell Beach

    As a social studies teacher, I love this! Yes, we need to know and understand the earth we inhabit and the events of the world…. And I would just add… vote! Whatever our politics, it’s our duty to be informed citizens. 🙂

    I have found apps like Flipboard or feedly are perfect for keeping up with news… that way I can get information a variety of sources in just one spot.

    • Tsh

      Yes, I’ve used both, and both are good! My personal preference at the moment is Feedly—great app.

  5. brittnie

    Very excited to meet you tonight! Bringing some friends and my newborn daughter. 🙂 It is a come and go book signing, correct? Or will you be speaking at any certain point in the evening? Excited!

    • Tsh

      I’m not really speaking, other than thanking people for coming, and collectively answering any questions you all may have. So if you need to come late, you certainly won’t “miss” anything, but it’ll only be an hour and a half, so there may not be too much time for come-and-go! 🙂

      Looking forward to meeting you, Brittnie!

  6. Johanna

    This is so good and so true! I recently wrote about what is going on in CAR. So much heartache happening and the rest of the world hardly knows it’s even happening. Here’s what I wrote :

    Now, I’m learning about Scotland and the UK because I just recently moved here. So much to learn!

    • Tsh

      So good, Johanna.

    • Grace Henry

      Such a beautiful, heartfelt post Johanna. I’m glad I found it.

  7. Em

    My wikipedia escapade just before clicking over to this blog was about the history of Peshawar, inspired by the news story about the recent suicide bombing there. Sounds like a super cool city and I wish I was gutsy enough to travel to that area of the world. Better yet, I wish there was peace in that region.

    And I have to admit, I got confused when you wrote “And when I say “world,” I mean, the world. The actual world. Earth” cause I was anticipating you proposing we be more educated about ecology/biology/ mother nature / environmental issues, which is definitely part of what you’re suggesting…but it turns out you met what I thought you meant originally.

  8. Judy d

    I’m getting better at this. My son is in the Peace Corps, and when he said “I don’t know if you’re following the news…” I had to set up Google alerts for Guinea. Now that we’ve just returned from there (and several friends have traveled to Africa recently as well), I feel more attuned to the world outside my comfy home.

    • Tsh

      Yes! Great idea.

  9. brooke

    I love international news. But I rarely hit BBC … and I loved it this morning. Thanks! I read an article about Switzerland’s vote on immigration quotas and now understand one reason why Switzerland has remained neutral. I didn’t realize that there was such a language divide in Switzerland. We have a friend there, whom my husband visited this last fall, so we learn so much from that contact!
    The thing that has helped me the most has been learning the world with our oldest when he did his Challenge A class with Classical Conversations. It’s unbelievable how helpful it is to be able to pop a picture in your mind of the country and it’s surroundings when hearing about it.
    Thanks!!!!!!!!!! I really want to get a subscription to Scientific American and The Atlantic … those are my favorites.

    • Tsh

      Awesome! Love it all.

  10. Olivia

    I’ll admit I shyed away from the news for awhile because I felt like I needed the break. It was overwhelming.

    But I crave knowledge, and I’m a sucker for a good documentary and also foreign films. But that takes time, and years to put together. I think it’s time I came out of my shell and try again. I was reading the occasional article on CNN world news.

    I get a lot of my news now from Phil Defranco on youtube. He makes the news a bit more comical and light.

    ps. Your book came in finally and I’m on chapter 9. I am in love. Seriously, new favorite book currently! 🙂

    Happy Monday!

    • Tsh

      Thanks, Liv! Glad you’re enjoying it.

  11. Angie

    Hey Tsh! So excited about your tour. I am trying to sign up via email and it says this feed does not have subscription by email enabled’.
    Can you fix it? I would love to follow you!

  12. Jen

    I just chose to update myself on the situation in Haiti. How has it been four years since a horrific earthquake killed over 100,000 people. Haiti is so close to our land and the humans there are in such turmoil. I vow to find a way to help in any way I can. Thank you for pushing us all to be better to each other and our world.

  13. Pam

    Thanks for the push. I have avoided all news for several years because it is depressing and I feel unable to do anything about it. so, for my sanity, I don’t watch TV news and do not subscribe to any newspapers. I don’t even read news on line. But, today I went to the BBC site and read about the situation in Homs, Syria. It’s heart rending. Although there is little I can physically do to change it, I will make it a point to pray daily for the Syrian people and for peace to be reached at the political table.

  14. Beth

    Thanks for this encouragement to look outside my life. I read about the flood of the River Thames. I realized how ethnocentric I am that I am that I would never even think that other areas of the world would flood like they do around where I am from.

    It was refreshing to look outside of my world.

  15. Ann

    Last year I went to visit my old boss. She travels a ton. We used to always talk about travel and other countries because it was something we had in common. Because of FB, I knew she had recently visited Africa (she went to 4-6 different countries in the north and in the south). I asked her about her trip and she mentioned that she was lucky to be able to get out before something happened – but, what she was referring to I had no idea. It was embarrassing. I looked at my 6 week old daughter and kind of blamed her that it’s the reason my head’s been in the clouds, but truth is, it’s been years since I’ve made an effort to know what’s happening in the world (and I majored in International Affairs and I live abroad – yikes!). In fact, I think the last two times I turned on the news was to watch the royal wedding and the royal birth.

    The good side is that I never felt over-saturated with news about either the wedding or the birth. Most of my friends were sick of hearing about it, but in my isolation, I found it all really exciting.

    These days I’ve started using the “Explore” option in my feedly reader to see highlights of what’s happening in other places. I need to be better about reading just the headlines, and this may be he push I need.

  16. Gladys

    I barely watch TV at all and a lot of times I get my news on Facebook (shame on me!) or check what’s the latest trend on Yahoo! and rarely check news outlets’ website. I need to be more updated on what’s going on to our world.
    I can’t wait to get a copy of your book and I’ll buy when I go to Walmart (which I hope it’s already available)

  17. Jane

    Such a great post Tsh! I seriously love, love, love the “in pictures” section on the BBC website – the photography is stunning and often leads me to find out more about specific news items/events around the world.

  18. Anna @ Crazy Catholic Mama

    Thank you so much for the prompt to do this! It’s so easy to get caught up in our own little mama worlds and forget that we are part of not only a larger community, but of an entire world of human beings. I read about the 3-day truce/ceasefire in Homs, Syria. It saddened me so much to see civilians huddled together en masse trying to escape their war-torn town. Over 100,000 civilians have been killed in this war over the past three years. Breaks my heart =(

  19. Dana

    Thank you for this prompting. I read the paper daily, but I often skip over the international news to get to the national and local news. I went on the BBC site and read a story about flooding and mudslides in Burundi that have killed at least 60 people. I was interested in learning more about Burundi because a neighbor of mine has a ministry there. She ministers to the wives of local pastors though retreats there. She goes once a year and often takes her 4 children along. I went on to read in general about Burundi. It is consider one of the world’s poorest countries. 20% of the children die before their 5th birthday and the average life expectancy is 59. Another link led me to an article about how global warming is causing crop failure and drought there. I am considering how I can support my neighbor in her work there.
    Thanks for the nudge,


  20. Jessica

    I’m pretty sad that you are 30 miles from me right now, and I just couldn’t make it happen to get there to meet you. I hope H-town has a good turnout for you tonight! Thank you for the encouragement to take the initiative to find out about the world. Its something I’ve never been good at. I do so enjoy visiting your corner of the www.

  21. Catherine

    Great post. You prompted me to go to the BBC and I read up on North and South Korea. I have learnt quite a bit in less than 5 mins- amazing. For ages now my husband and I have been promising to buy a weekend paper but family life seems to get in the way- football, homework etc. However, this weekend we now will. Thanks for the kick up the bum!!!

  22. Dawn

    Love this! I admit, I did not head to an international news site after reading this, BUT I did go look up some things I’ve been puzzled about since moving to Thailand and gaining some friends from multiple other countries. Today I learned more about just which countries make up the UK and what that’s all about, which countries make up Great Britain, and which countries are considered the Scandinavian countries – I no longer want to be ignorant about these terms when talking with my friends from some of these areas countries! I’ve learned a ton since our international move, but moving out of America has shown me just how much more I have to (and want to) learn. The political situation in Thailand alone could keep me reading for quite a while. Great post!

  23. Katy

    Tell me, honestly, how do you stomach so much of the news. I do read bis, but find it so sad. I want to be an informed citizen if the world. I bet many feel the same way.

  24. Caitlin

    If I can be honest, I pretty much ignore “real” news at all costs. It is just so dreary, that I want to avoid it in the mornings, but also want to avoid it at night before bed. During the day, I definitely don’t want it on with my son at home. But, I see how that can be taken as ignorant. Not something I necessarily strive to be, of course. So, with this post, I will follow your suggestions and try to dip into other parts of the world. I just erased my FB app off my phone (unnecessary distraction) and instead install one of the news apps.

    I hopped over to BBC News and read about the Boko Haram Islamic militants in Northern Nigeria. It blows my mind that this type of behavior is affecting innocent people all over the world. They will be in my prayers tonight.

    Thanks for helping pull the wool from up over my eyes, Tsh.

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