a friend of mine from south asia recently put her finger exactly on that part of my anglo/germanic middle-american heritage that has always eluded me. or rather, i have always thought i eluded it.
i don’t think i’ve done this consciously, but over the last seven years, i have systematically stepped out of my cultural upbringing. i dated an asian guy for two years. i moved to the east coast. i spent a year and a half writing my thesis on an italian-american family living in manhattan’s lower east side. i even figured out a reason to live in new york for the project. in. new. york. me. in the big city. on my own. and now i live in another big mid-atlantic city! i’ve even learned to cook everything but my mother’s recipes (just let me know when you’re coming over: i’ll either have sicilian red sauce for the penne or ghanaian chicken in the pot for you (and neither are found in the family cookbook)).
i’m beginning to wince on behalf of my background.
i’ve been so busy appreciating other places/cultures/backgrounds that i have disrobed my own of its rightful, modest significance. . . and really, in context, i struggle to appreciate any sort of significance to my own background. politically, i tend to run in rather liberal circles, and it’s not popular there to be a reasonably well-off middle-class girl who’s not only white, but also anglo-saxon and protestant (w.a.s.p.).
i just got back from a business trip to the near midwest, and i found myself in a home-like environment: the land was flat; the accents were homey (round “o” , flat “a” ). in spite of myself, i remembered how fond i am of all the sounds and tastes and sights that are home/heritage for me. it made me incredibly homesick and has made me realize how much i judge people from my own social background: how can they live with much and not do something to help those who have little? but then, how can i presume to know that they’re not doing something to help? more importantly, am i doing the thing for which i wrongly judge them?
as i was sharing all this with a globetrotting, midwesterly-rooted friend over dinner last night, he humbly challenged me to consider what i was doing myself to respond to my own frustrations. i was properly put in my place, and have been considering more pro-active ways to express frustrations. with my time and my material resources, i want to be purposeful about putting action behind words. first stop: applying to volunteer with an organization reaching out to kids in rough spots through the arts… check out http://www.buildabridge.org/. hope to be able to help out there in the next couple of months… it’s just one step, but it’s a step.
and it’s a step toward realizing that the problem is not where i’m from, or what my background is ethnically/socially/economically. God has given me all that’s in my heritage for reasons He knows and can use. He has also blessed me with beautiful opportunities to know people and places with different cultures – I love it! but He has not given those opportunities and that affection so that I could grow discontent with the life He has planned out for me. How ungrateful, and how whiny I can be!! Seriously, my heart gets quickly ugly with this sort of sin, and is so easily caught up in popular attitudes that I trip over envy and land flat on my face. Instead, may He fill my heart with thankfulness for His sovereign plan and with faithfulness to love Him by loving others!