Recently, in class, I talked a bit about social rules for Americans. There are many visitors to the mission and probably just as many eager students who want to practice speaking English. I recall being approached by them when we first moved here and feeling a bit uncomfortable. Funny enough, I asked two female interns about how they felt because my initial feeling of discomfort are gone and well, this is my normal now.
We talked about "personal bubbles," approaching a man vs. approaching a woman, touching or not touching....just STUFF that is cultural that we don't even think about. I will confess that sometimes when we discuss American culture, I find myself considering normal things Americans do, being odd. The same is true when we reentry to the states. For example, while in Florida, when the sun went down, people go out on the beach wearing matching clothing to get their pictures made. They make pretty pictures. We have done it but it just looked odd to see it every night. I giggled with my friend about the color of the night. Normal stuff, it just looked odd after living in another culture even if I do still live like an American.
In English class, it came up in discussion, that you should ask someone if they have time to speak with you. If you see someone who is in a hurry, be respectful of their time and assume they can not talk right now. Arnold, an older gentleman (meaning older than me), raised his hand and attempted to communicate in English but soon gave up and allowed the other students to translate. His questions were,
"Are Americans really that busy all of the time? When do they talk to people?"
The interns and I just looked at one another. They shared with the students that people have coffee together, share a meal together, text one another, or call one another on the phone. But the question penetrated our hearts. In this culture, you greet a lady with a kiss. You ask a person how they are, how their family is, and sometimes you even hear locals asking one another if they have eaten today so to share some food with them. But, we Americans are so busy getting things accomplished that we ask one another how we are doing while we are walking away! We don't even stand still long enough to wait for a response. In fact, when we lived in the states, I no longer allowed myself to say "How are you?" because so many people said it but really did not care of the response. I wanted to be intentional with what I said. Even as an American in another culture, I catch myself being too "busy" to stop and chat. I do have obligations, responsibilities, and time commitments but I don't think the Lord called us to be THAT busy OR THAT obligated.
The Holy Spirit convicted my heart with each question they asked. How many times do I work away at home and neglect to "give my face" not just my ears to one of our children or even my husband? How many times was my visit so short that someone did not feel comfortable getting to what they really needed to talk about?
I am task oriented. God made me that way but He also gave me two ears to hear, two eyes to see, the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, and a world of people who need to know Him.