Friday, August 13, 2010

Perspective

I've found myself thinking about perspective quite a lot this last week or so.

My parents have had a missionary family coming and going from their house for the last couple weeks, and, since I spend the vast majority of my days at mom and dad's, I've gotten to enjoy their company as well.

I've met dozens of missionary kids and families over the years, and this family has rapidly become one of my favorites.  Their children are articulate, well-adapted, and genuinely interested in the world around them and in finding fun everywhere they go.

I've been exposed to quite a number of missionary kids who seem quite adrift when they land in North America.  Conversations with them usually entail a lengthy  dissertation on how very different life in North America is from life in whatever country it is that their family serves in, and then a discussion of why it is that whatever the aspect of life under discussion is done better in that country than in North America.

When I began to travel, my dad gave me a piece of advice that I've found valuable.  Don't compare, and don't make judgments about what is better or worse.  The context is different.  Choose to appreciate, to observe, to explore, to seek to understand.  Sometimes as I'm talking with missionary kids, I wish they were given that same advice about approaching life back in North America - that in the same way it would be irritating and horrible for me to come to their home context and pass judgment about how things are done, it's equally irritating for them to come here and pass judgment.

In any case, I particularly appreciated the family that was staying with us.  Rather than complain about what they missed, I heard over and over from their three children, "We can't do that in Ghana!"  It was great fun to watch their youngest child's eyes grow large as she spotted one of the many herds of cows that spot the Alberta foothills.  "Look at how big those cows are!!!"  It was totally enjoyable to sit with them in a movie theatre and hear about how this was only the second or third time they'd ever been in a movie theatre.  I loved hearing them detail their delight at the vast assortment of wildlife they saw as they toured the mountains for the first time (none of them, parents included, had ever seen mountains!)  And I took joy in watching my dad teach the kids the basics of fly fishing - another "we can't do that in Ghana" experience for their collection.

There was something in watching all this that caught my attention.  That made me think about differing perspectives.  I live in a land where cattle are huge, and the biblical phrase about God "owning the cattle on a thousand hills" takes on a truly surreal meaning.  I live in "Alberta beef" country, where cattle are the pride and joy of ranchers, and are raised by the thousands.  Where cows are huge, plentiful, and where very high quality beef is easily obtained from just about any butcher or grocery store.  These kids come from a world where the cattle are scrawny and where a single cow can make an immense difference in the life and living eked out by a family.

I was thinking about perspective in a different way this week too.  Late on Monday night I sat in a car, catching up with a friend, hearing about her summer, and sharing some of the challenges that life has thrown my way this summer.  In her typically sarcastic way, she asked "and how's that for you?"  I laughed and began to respond in kind, "well, it's been just..." and I bit back the word I'd planned to use, threw something else in it's place and finished answering. 

She caught my pause.  "You were going to say it's been hell, weren't you?" 

"yep."

"You know that you can say that right?"

And my response caught me off guard as well.

"I know, but I'm working to change how I see this.  To be grateful for the healing that's coming, and not focus so much on how brutal the process is."

I'm thinking about perspective this week, and I want my perspective to be more like that of the kids I've so appreciated.  To let them be my teachers.  To see opportunity, and joy, and new things, instead of focusing on what has changed, what I miss, what aches.  I want to see healing instead of wallowing in the muck of a very broken life.  Even when everything is unfamiliar.  I want to have an "I can't do that in Ghana" attitude and make the most of what I am being offered, rather than wishing for a different portion.  And I want to continue to work on seeing a different perspective reflected not only in my thoughts, but in my outlook, my writing and my speech.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

:-)

Hugs!

Lisa said...

You'd have loved these kids - they were so funny.

accepting the hugs, and sending some back :)

Anonymous said...

Did I tell you about some we've had here recently?

One mom had her kids sharing in one of my 5th grade classes (husband was still in their place of ministry in Central Asia) and they were in their small groups but as a large group doing a game type thing as she shared/taught about where they live/serve.

She'd share a picture or ask a question and give them four choices and each group would pick an answer and hold it up (ala Bible quiz type style) and they'd track points. The kids LOVED it and were engrossed...this one little class of kids had given over $700 in "m" money toward this family over the 10 months and were thrilled to meet them and finally learn specifics about where they're at (b/c of location normally it's vague).

So one question was actually giving the groups a map and find _____an. (None knew going into the week what country this family was really in - teachers included)

All the groups are puzzled.

The 1st grade son who was in there "helping" his mom teach puts his hands on his hips as he looks at all these puzzled faces, says, "I'll give you the biggest hint in the world!"

The others all lean forward eagerly.

He says, "It touches the Caspian Sea!" (And looks totally pleased with himself for making it so easy)

All these blank faces stare back at him.

And I sit in the back and think the only "Caspian" they know follows the word "Prince" thank you C.S. Lewis. Ha ha.

It was adorable. :-)

And hopefully I get to go visit their ___an home soon!

Lisa said...

too funny...

my dad asked interviewed these kids (their mom is British, their dad Canadian) in church on Sunday and first he asked them what their favorite Ghanaian food was. And then what their favorite north american/european food was. My dad is rarely caught off guard, by even he was surprised when the oldest boy informed him that his favorite food was haggis!

traveling in your future hmmm??? you'll have to email me and tell me about that :)

tea said...

These are really great thoughts. You're right, we have to make choices about how we see things and it's not always easy, but it is such a blessing to learn to choose. I think God is always showing me more about the choices I have to make. It's really so great that he is helping you, through all of the things you've been through recently, to be purposely choosing to see things from a good perspective. Thank you for sharing this and helping me to remember to choose. :)

Lisa said...

Hi Tea! yes, it is so hard to make the choices isn't it? I'm glad to know someone else can relate.