In this era of instant communication, we Americans have a sense that we know more about the rest of the world than ever before. But there is nothing like a personal visit to some far-off land to make us understand how little we really know about foreign cultures.
That's why Justin Cox's weekly columns from Antofagasta, Chile, have been so interesting and so informative. With a simple clarity and honesty, Cox has given us a glimpse into another world. More than that, he has given us a taste of how others around the world view us.
The graduate of Scott City High School and Washington University in St. Louis also learned valuable life lessons from his six-month stay in Chile, where he volunteered as a teacher.
Cox's experience is similar to those of Peace Corps volunteers and college students who spend more time abroad than would have ever been imagined by their parents and grandparents.
In his last newspaper essay regarding his Chilean experience, Cox offered a bit of advice that reflects some of the maturity he developed while living in a strange land: Recognize that we are citizens of the world and that the choices we make have a global impact.
"I am completely aware of the fact that I am merely a 23-year-old idealist young man from rural Missouri fresh out of college, and that much of what I've written may sound naive or contentious." Cox wrote. "But my experiences here and abroad have only reinforced my idealism. And maybe -- just maybe -- it takes a little naiveté to effect change."
The world will be a better place because of young idealists like Cox.