I'm flying from Islamabad to Lahore, Pakistan. My seatmate is a little girl, about 10 years old, dressed in a fuchsia top and matching leggings with a very hip belt around the waist. Her tiny wrist is circled with a red flowered watch and she wears dainty earrings. She is a curious child with huge eyes and a pixie haircut. "Hello," she says, with a smile full of sparkle and shine.
"Hello," I say, shaking her hand and telling her my name. She tells me her name is Minahi and this is the first time she's been back to her hometown of Lahore in three years. She's very excited. I enjoy the chatter, but what tickles me most is this little girl's accent, for she speaks English like an Italian grandmother, complete with a heavy accent and the full-bodied use of hand and facial gestures. It is impossible for her, in fact, to utter a sentence without pursing her little hand as if she were holding a precious gem, circling around those expressive eyes.
She tells me her father has been working in Bologna for three years where she's been living and going to school. She loves Italy, loves the food and her friends there and loves the language, too, but she's glad to be going home for she has so many more cousins here. She asks to see pictures of my family and is very impressed that I have so many brothers and sisters. And she likes that my job allows me to see many parts of Pakistan. I look at her and think about this notion of global citizenship, and how little Minahi is already a beautiful product of diverse cultures.
But the most precious moment occurs as the plane begins to land in Lahore. Minahi leans across me to look out the window, putting her hand on my knee for stability. "Oh," she says, looking over a huge swath of dusty, flat land dotted with simple, white houses, "it is so so be-a-u-ti-ful! After three years in Italia I am coming home and it is a beautiful sight!"
There is nothing like coming home. Our hope for the future lies in little ones like Minahi who can move seamlessly through different cultures while being rooted in a sense of place and family. May this little one -- and all our little ones -- be able to spread their wings and let others spread theirs, while at the same time, know from where they come.