I’ve been quite intrigued with the world lately. I went to Africa in October and that opened the door to a part of my heart once locked tight – the part that begs to explore and experience as much as possible as soon as possible!
Since returning I’ve been anxious to get back on those planes – interesting since I was restless and uncomfortable through every flight we took – and go visit somewhere else I once would have regarded as “not for me.” All it takes it for someone to mention another country and I’m looking up the cost of getting there! It’s actually kind of beautiful because I know God is going to use this new found desire and I’m excited to see how, but might need to be ok with waiting in the meantime!
In the meantime, I am surrounded by people from other cultures where I work. It is such a beautiful thing to be getting to hear the language, speak the language, eat their food – sorta, ask them questions, and experience as much as possible with them in my culture until I can make it to theirs! And sometimes it makes me think about my culture, sometimes we fight because of the differences in culture, and most of the time we make faces at one another when something is really weird and call each other “Strange.” The most spectacular thing is that we know we are different and enjoy the differences we bring to the world.
From one friend I hear stories of a war torn nation that once knew peace.
From another friend I hear of a nation that has abundance, but its people are living in poverty.
I hear stories of people going between countries trying to build a good life- which they did.
I hear stories of people fighting and doing everything possible to stay in America because this is their hope.
I hear of the people who come here to learn all they can simply so they can take it back their people who are desperate for the hope and freedom we have.
Then there are the times when the excess I grew up with clashes harshly with one who has no idea what that means.
I remember growing up the popular phrase used to make children eat all their food was, “There are starving kids in Africa and you want to throw your food away?” Now in reality, I was full and had probably put too much food on my plate for the third time that day. I did not care about the starving kids in Africa, I cared about not making myself sick.
The other day a person brought donuts to the office and although they were already not fresh we ate them! However, at the end of the day we had not managed to eat all of them. In my Americanness I was ready to throw the already going stale donuts into the trash because it was not worth keeping them around! But my friend fought valiantly to save these donuts because in her country they can’t afford to not use everything they have! I was ready to simply over rule her since in some ways I am above her in work ranks. “You are in America now, and we throw stale things away.” I reasoned with myself in my mind. Then she said something that set aside my American pride and caused me to capitulate, “My grandmother would cry so much if she knew you had thrown those away.”
Now for those reading this you may not understand why that statement made me stop. I think most of the reason was that I knew she was telling the truth. This wasn’t a sarcastic comment stretching the truth in order to get her way, it was her reality. It was something that defined her life and caused her to see the world in a specific way. Unfortunately, I might have given her a little bit of attitude because I did not get my way, but in the end compassion and understanding won the day. This is just one reason, one incident, that makes me so grateful to have so many friends from other countries! They make me a better person, and really they make me a better American too. Because we aren’t being who we are supposed to be to the world – we are pretty caught up in our own mess, but they still need us! They need us to be free to live justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God!