He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress and for his children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

Friday, October 5, 2012


What do you value?  What things form the way you make decisions and prioritize your life?  These are things I usually think about on a big picture level- my core beliefs, my parenting, my relationship with Jason, my day to day, week to week planning, but only recently have I really considered values in the sense of how they affect my ability to live and adapt cross culturally.  I know, duh, right?  Of course your values will affect the lens through which you see those around you.  And, wow, what a revelation NOW considering we have been living in a different culture, a foreign culture for going on 10 years.

I guess it's not so much that I haven't thought about values in the sense of cross cultural adaptation, but I've never really flipped the thought process around as I have done recently and thought about the values of the people around me and how they affect their interaction with the world.  And taking it a step further how their interaction with the world because of their values (or sometimes lack of certain values) affects my opinion of them, my frustration with their culture or, on the flip side, my love for their culture.  It's really been somewhat freeing in terms of my ability to fully embrace those we live among and love them where they are.  I mean, if I'm completely honest (and hopefully that's the case :)), it is only the love of Jesus that enables me to express love to those around me- and I'm not just talking about  strangers and acquaintances, I'm also talking those nearest and dearest to my heart.  There are plenty of days that in my own strength and (lack of) capacity, I simply could not do it.  But for the purpose of this post, let's say I'm talking about acquaintances, people I occasionally cross paths with in day to day activities, people with different cultural values than mine.  Hard to love people.  Why?  Not because they are wrong or even necessarily sinful in a certain action, but because they are different and hard to understand, and let's face it, that makes us uncomfortable.   Especially when something happens that rubs against my personal values and convictions.  My quick reaction is to judge and criticize, not to love and accept.  So apply that natural reaction to a situation where I'm already uncomfortable because it's new and different and possibly irritating and it can be a recipe for disaster as far as cross cultural acceptance.

Ok, I'll stop rambling and give you some examples.  Let's take pollution.  Pollution in the sense of trash.  I'm not talking air pollution, hair spray, the water system.  I'm talking trash.  Sandwich wrappers, candy wrappers, coke cans.  Trash.  On the ground,  EV-ER-Y-WHERE.  DRIVES. ME. CRAZY.  A country that could be/is SO beautiful.  Littered because people have not truly been taught about pollution and valuing a space that is not theirs.  You can walk into a home that is truly beautiful as soon as you step over the threshold.  Everything clean and neat, well kept, sanitary.  That is their space, their sanctuary.  And it is lovely.  But walk outside 25-50-100 yards away and their are mounds of trash.  Not in canisters or containers but along the road, pushed up against fences of empty fields.  It's not as much of a problem in the cities.  Because that is the space of the government.  And they mostly take care of it.  But get out away from the city, in the potentially beautiful countryside.  And there is trash.  And people, who are very responsible for their own homes, contribute to the trash because it's not "their" space and they have not been taught to value the space that is not their own.

 Remember the pollution campaigns of the 70s and 80s in America?  "Give a hoot, don't pollute", the crying Native American, Smokey the Bear?   We were taught as children to value our space and take care of it.  My tendency to judge this atrocity (in my mind) can be tempered if I remind myself, they have simply not been taught to value this.   Love,  don't judge!  

Another biggie- customer service.  In case there was any doubt in your mind, let me tell you that it is NOT a value here.  At least for the most part.  There may be the occasional occasion where you have a situation where some sort of positive customer service comes into play and it leaves you reeling in a good way.  But usually, not so much.  As a whole, the culture here does not embrace the value that the customer is mostly right and should be served to the best of the service provider's ability.  Quite the contrary actually.  Recent example.  Grocery shopping for my family of 6 in the mega store close to my house with 17 month Anabelle who has just given up her morning nap and is quickly crashing thus my need to hurry through the store.   The idea that the men who have huge boxes in the middle of most aisles in such a way that the grocery carts cannot fit around them, should get out of the way for the customers who are trying to shop is foreign.  Their job of re-stocking the shelves is far more important than my need to make purchases.   I have physically moved boxes out of the way of my cart while they pretend to not notice and continue to restock less than 3 feet from where I am struggling to get by.

Check out time.  Checker comes across an item with a bar code that is smudged and won't scan.  She hold it up scowling, 

Her:  "you don't need?  bar code doesn't work"
Me:  "yes, I need it please.  I'm happy to go get another"
Her: "no"
(continue checking out MANY items- family of 6 thing..)
Her:  (10 minutes later after scanning all other items holding up item again):  "you don't need?" 

(umm, did you forget in the past 10 minutes??)

Me:  "yes!  I need it.  I'll go find another"
Her:  "no! (snatches it away with a sigh and hands to bagger- go find this she says with rolled eyes)

10 minutes later  I check out and she continues to roll her eyes but I have what I needed.  Apparently my need to buy something from the store was disturbing her morning, but it would never cross her mind not to show annoyance.  So yeah, customer service, not a value.  It would do you well if you ever plan to visit to get over your need to be valued as a customer and pray for the grace not to judge for this!

One more example- lines.  Not only are they not valued in any way, THEY DO NOT EXIST AT ALL.  Unless maybe you are at the Embassy of your country.  Then only maybe.  And yes, of course, in grocery stores people get in lines at check out so I guess in that way they exist, but the thing is, people feel very free to just step in front of you in line.   Especially if they have less items than you.  And they may or may not ask first.  Usually not though.  Because in their minds it only makes sense that they would go before you with their less items.  I will confess that nothing stresses me out like the mob of people gathering around the 1-2 women weighing fruits and vegetables in the produce section of the grocery.  It is a mob scene and may the most pushy, persistent person win.  (that's usually not me in case you haven't guessed....)

So I am learning in encountering culturally different situation such as those mentioned above, to not get so incredibly irritated and judgy.  Yes, they are doing things differently and if I am already sleep deprived and tired the annoyance of seeing people drop trash on the ground or cut in front of me in line can cause me to get on my own personal high horse and stop seeing them as people whom I should love but as people who are crazy and irrational for not doing things the way I was raised.  Not the way they were raised, but the way I was raised.  Well, duh, they haven't been raised like me and there is absolutely no reason that they, in their context, would have the same beliefs that I have.  Seeing things in this light makes it a lot easier for me to get over myself and accept in love someone who is simply different.  

Why, especially as Americans, are we so quick to judge those who are different than us?  Why do we automatically see them as wrong?  I was especially bothered by this phenomen recently with certain worldwide events caused by a certain film.  The reaction (and yes, I'm referring mostly to Facebook) of the American community to our M'slim neighbors and friends was pretty disturbing to me.  Ok, yes, a group of radicals carried out some violent acts.  Disturbing.  Sad.  Somewhat shocking.  But did it merit the "down with all countries that are different than ours, long live America" reaction that seemed to prevail?   I don't think so.  

I guess I'm feeling the need to stand up for and rout for the Arab peoples that we have planted our lives among. As a whole, the beautiful people in this part of the world, are not characterized by the fanatical acts of a few.   Please don't judge them because they are different than you and you don't understand the differences.  If anything, love them because Jesus has called us to a love that is so much bigger than ourselves.  

1 John 4: 7-12 "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.  This is how God showed his love among us:  He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love:  not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.   No one has ever seen God; but if we love on another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. " 


Anonymous said...

I stumbled upon your blog when I read your answer on the Lproof blog. I was drawn to your respose because my husband is from Al-Karak. We are believers and live in the US, but visit Jordan to see his family. I had to laugh when I remember all the garbage:) I remember going to the store and no one would help because they were drinking tea. I will keep you in my prayers. God must have led me to your post!!!!!

Charlie Cameron said...

I admire your persistence in applying The Lord's love to others who are different FROM you ( emphasis on the the "from" b/c incorrect usage of this this grammatical construction tends to drive ME crazy!! Kind of like Suzanne and me are going ti a movie or using the subjective case if a pronoun

Charlie Cameron said...

"of" a pronoun incorrectly, e.g. For he and I

Charlie Cameron said...

but I'm being a picky old English teacher :/)
U really do love the the way you write, and I love you. I just wish that I could tell you in person more often. :/)