Thursday, June 4, 2009

Some crazy stories and crazier insights...

Hey friends out there!

I'm sorry I've been horrible at keeping my promise of writing something every week. Life has been Hectic - thats right, with a capital H. The wedding that is taking place here in South Africa takes place in only 5 weeks so I've been doing an enormous amount of preparation for it plus my regular work and the evening class that I do twice a week. Can I just say, I'm exhausted?!

But I have been thinking about writing - even though there has been an absence, I've been thinking about what to say and how to say it. Some funny things have happened lately that all center around our observations about those around us. It has taught me a few things about the importance of communication and interaction and I thought maybe I could share it with you. Let me share the crazy examples first.

Example #1 - I was asked by a Zulu friend here if it was true if white girls wore clothespins on our noses when we are small and thats why our noses are so pointed.

Example #2 - I met an old white lady at my bus stop. It happened to be Ascension Day and she told me about how she had gone to great lengths to see if the buses were running that day because it was a Christian Holiday. She assured me that they were and said, "Do you want to know why? Its because blacks aren't Christians so they don't celebrate Christian holidays."

Example #3 - I was asked by a dear Zulu friend if I knew how to wash dishes. I made a joke about her not liking my Canadian dish washing technique and asked her why she was asking me this. She said, "No, I just thought that white people always had maids".

Interesting hey? The perceptions that people have of one another...

But it made me wonder, what types of perceptions do we have about one another back at home that are inaccurate, whether they are cultural or not... I'm sure it happens more often than we know.

These 3 examples also illustrate the rift that still exists between races in South Africa even now that Apartheid has ended. Its crazy, isn't it? Its not that theres fighting or hostility but it just shows how apart the people here can sometimes be and how unknown other people groups can be too. I'm not sure if this is the same in other cities in South Africa but it is definetly true for the city of Durban. Sometimes it moves me to anger and sometimes things make me laugh but I am always surprised.

One thing that it teaches me is the importance of reaching out to others and sharing with them. I remember when I lived and worked in Belfast we often stressed the importance of doing this when doing Reconciliation workshops. During one of these workshops I heard a great Native American story about the topic that goes a little something like this: "There were two tribes that had long been at war. One day the cheifs of the tribes realized how much blood of their people had been shed and together, decided to send out the strongest brave from each side to fight each other on behalf of the people. A time was set and the tribes lined up to watch the outcome of the battle. The two braves met and fought and fought and fought. They were so evenly matched that the battle didn't end quickly but went on into the evening. Soon the sun began to set and it was decided that the men would stop their fighting and resume again when the sun rose. The onlookers retired to their homes and the two men laid on their backs in the grass, trying to get comfortable for the night. After a while one man sighed and said to the other, "my children are in bed now". The other man, shocked, sat in silence for awhile and then asked him, "you have children?". The two men began to ask each other questions about their families. When the sun rose that morning the onlookers returned and saw the two men sitting across from one another. They had been sitting together, sharing with each other all night. Seeing the onlookers made them remember what they were meant to do and they looked at each other... "How can I fight a friend?"....

Interesting story hey? It illustrates how we can often demonize the "other" person without knowing about them. Without knowing how they live, that they have a family, that they are just a person too who need love, forgiveness and make mistakes. This sounds all warm and fuzzy after a good story but its tough to apply it in real life after a history of conflict between cultures or, after someone has done something that has really hurt us on an individual basis but... its got to possible.

You know what, actually I think that the ability to forgive is one of those things that cause a distinction between humans and animals. Someone told me that if you throw a rock at a monkey, they will go and get a bigger rock and throw it at you. If you throw a stick at a monkey, they will go and get a heavier stick and throw it at you. If you aim for their body, they will aim for your head. Crazy little animals, hey? But we humans do the same thing - our ability to forgive is something divine - something that makes us different.

Sometimes, here in South Africa, I feel a bit like a bridge between two cultures. One one side of the bridge I explain to people how "the other" group can really be, on the other side of the bridge I do the same. Its a bit frustrating at times but kind of fun and interesting too.

Another thing this makes me realize is how different Mthoko and my relationship is here in South Africa. To me, Mthoko is just Mthoko and I am just me. We've always been friends and I know him. Hes just like me in a lot of ways. I don't think of his as "black" and he doesn't think of me as "white". I think when you're really friends with someone, labels like this don't even cross your mind. Haha, but people don't understand this when they see us from the outside and what shockwaves we must make! We've gotten some very interesting responses from people here - some positive, some negative - but I know that God is doing something to restore this country somehow... even when it seems impossible sometimes. I don't always like being such a political statement but, I like being with my best friend and thats what I choose to focus on.

But with this, guys, I realize how much we need your prayers. We've got 5 weeks of preparation left for our big wedding here and although we do covet your prayers for God's provision with all of the plans, we need your prayers for protection, wisdom and unity (and any other blessing you want to bestow!) even more so. Please pray guys.

Thanks so much for reading these funny little blogs. Hope you guys are well. Feel free to drop me an email. I'd love to hear from you and I look forward to seeing you guys at some point in the future! I'm back in Canada, August 6th for 3 weeks. Bring on the good times!