Upwardly Dependent » walking the delicate balance of absolute truth and overwhelming grace.

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The Arrogant Global Migrant: An Apology

Something very rare happened this morning: I got out of bed before my husband or daughter, made a cup of coffee, and read a book.

The amount of grad work that’s piling up has forced me to be pretty intentional with my time this month.

I’m working on a paper about Third Culture Kids (TCKs), so I was reading about growing up among worlds. It’s fascinating to learn about all of the personality traits kids possess when they are raised in a culture that is different from their parent’s host culture.

I underlined and starred and highlighted sentences that stuck out to me. I read about adaptability and cultural identity, cross-cultural enrichment and world view.

And then I got to a section about ARROGANCE. And the words on the page were no longer talking about my children, but about me.

 

Here’s what I read that socked me in the stomach:

It seems the very awareness that helps [global migrants] view a situation from multiple perspectives can also make [global migrants] impatient or arrogant with others who only see things from their own perspective – particularly people from their home culture.

A cross-cultural lifestyle is so normal to them that [global migrants] themselves don’t always understand how much it has shaped their view of the world. They easily forget it’s their life experiences that have been different from others’, not their brain cells, and do consider themselves much more cosmopolitan and just plain smarter, or at least more globally aware, than others.

Third Culture Kids, David C. Pollack and Ruth E. Van Reken, pg. 109

I may not have lived overseas for long periods of time, but I have had the unique opportunity to travel through five continents before the age of 25.

Aruba. Haiti. Peru. Cozumel. New York City. Mexico. Italy. Greece. Kenya. Thailand. Cambodia. Vietnam. Laos. England. Singapore. Malaysia. California. Texas.

 

When I watch the news, the faces are real to me. I don’t feel like I’m watching a flat screen with floating pictures. I see people. I smell the burning trash. I taste the local fruits.

But when I become so verbally passionate about global issues, I struggle to find others to converse with. So, in an effort to blend in with those around me, I find myself shutting up.

I wasn’t always like this.

On my first trip home from Haiti, I was ready to yell at everybody with designer handbags and tell them where I thought they could go.

THERE ARE STARVING KIDS IN THE WORLD, PEOPLE! DON’T YOU GET IT???

But not everyone has seen what I have seen. Not everyone has been blessed with the opportunity to hold the hands of a dirty, half-naked child. Not everyone has traveled to a remote village and shared chai with the chief. Not everyone has tasted the meaty, potent flavor of durian.

These experiences flood my mind constantly. And in many ways, they have rooted out the typical American girl’s memories of playing with Barbies and visiting with neighbors.

I grew up in Small Town Tennessee, but when I left for college, I had no intention of returning. My brother-in-law has even made the comment that it seems like I didn’t even grow up there.

I come home to visit, but I can’t keep up with conversation because I can’t remember who lives there and who’s related to who and who works where.

 

I remember running an errand to Wal-Mart once in my hometown, and it felt so strange. It was so much smaller than I remembered. Compared to the stores where I shopped in Memphis, the ethnic food section was almost non-existent. There was only one entrance, and the people inside all looked the same.

I came home and tried to debrief what I felt was a cultural experience with my mother. I’m so embarrassed by the words that came out of my mouth.

How did I ever make it out of this town??

I can still see her hurt face.

Do you even appreciate the raising that you had? Is there anything from your childhood that you look back on with good memories?

Sitting on the porch of my childhood home that day was a major turning point for me. It had been my mission to teach everyone that Africa was NOT a country and that everyone in Asia did not speak Chinese and wear straw, woven cone hats.

And suddenly I realized that, as much as my identity had transformed because of my travel, I was still a small-town girl from the South. There were people in that town who loved me, taught me, and cultivated me into the woman that I am now.

I am ever so appreciative of where I come from.

 

I still feel sometimes like I don’t belong anywhere. My roots aren’t tied to Connie Smith Road anymore, but they’re not really tied to any road for that matter.

There is so much in the world I still want to see. I love learning about different cultures and global issues.

I was sitting with some ladies from my hometown this week, and the subject of travel came up. Oh me, give me the floor and ask me questions about orphan exploitation and government corruption and I can’t stop.

I talked about ethical tourism and human trafficking and paying off security guards…and then looked up at the big eyes around the table and saw it was time to stop.

So I joked and said Well Happy New Year Everyone! and went to refill my coffee cup.

Sometimes I’m bursting at the seams to share what seems like my normal. But then I realize that talking about riding a dirt bike up a mountain in Kenya beside a warthog doesn’t really translate very well.

Many of you need an apology from someone who has rolled her eyes at fancy cars, talked like a snob about Thai curries, and fought hard against racial slurs.

Whether it’s real or perceived arrogance, I speak with passion because of what I’ve seen. And others speak about their local contexts because it’s what they’ve seen.

I’m a work in progress; I need a lot of patience.

If your life experiences have led you to global contexts, watch what you say and how you say it. Sometimes in an effort to scream I’m different from you!, others are actually hearing You are all insensitive, unaware idiots who need to learn about the world!

This is my apology. If I’ve ever made you feel this way, it’s time you heard I’m sorry.

 

Comments

comments

Mollie PrinceJanuary 3, 2014 - 1:06 pm

Lauren you are so filled with God’s grace. Every time I read something you have written I just stop and thank God for you. From one small town girl to another those Connie Smith road moments made you who you are. However, unlike most of us you have said yes to God’s call. You have traveled to places that we can only dream about and pray for. Those sweet people need Jesus and you are His hands and feet. Now go and send us pictures and blogs and adopt more babies and never ever stop praising God for redeeming all of us.

Lola-Margaret HallJanuary 3, 2014 - 5:41 pm

So understand, have done it and it doesn’t even deserve a T-shirt. I think I owe the world I have encountered an apology, as well.

Deborah Brown WilsonJanuary 3, 2014 - 6:10 pm

Thank you so very much, Lauren, for exposing our various positions of arrogance. I can so relate to what you’ve shared here. Blessings

Tom O'NealJanuary 3, 2014 - 6:43 pm

I’m Tom’s wife-I completely understand Lauren! My Mom was a missionary in China for 10 years! Before her death she and my Dad were called to the Chinese mission in NO , La. and I grew up among the Chinese people there! I can remember English and citizenship classa that were held after it became a supporting church. Sometimes when I was young I felt like I was Chinese. I htae slurs made against Chinesenor any other culture! I love your passion! You and your family are an inspiration to me! I have been praying for you many years!! May God continue to bless your ministry. Isaiah 52:7!!!!

Gina BurkeJanuary 3, 2014 - 9:23 pm

Apology accepted but not necessary my sweet friend!! You are truly a gift from God to our church and His kingdom worldwide! I talked we several ladies at the day of prayer…we feel truly blessed by your presence in our midst. Your passion and love for God and His people has rubbed off on us and couldn’t have come at a better time! Love you always!!

Lyndsey mcfallJanuary 3, 2014 - 10:27 pm

I think many people who have been in your position and have had the privilidge of reaching so many people and seeing so much of this world struggle with this. I know that I haven’t been able to experience as much of this huge world as I dreamed that I would have and sometimes it makes me feel less of a person. I just try to remind myself that maybe those opportunities haven’t opened up to me because not everyone is meant to be an example to this whole big world maybe some people are just supposed to be an example to someone right here in little ole Selmer, TN.

Chantel Ervin RojasJanuary 4, 2014 - 4:13 am

As someone who has had 5 exchange in her home from various spanish speaking countries, been to Haiti, venezuela, Guatemala, annd Panama on various mission trips and extended stays from the time I was 9, and then moved to Mexico on my own with no one to soeak english to for 3 years…I know what you mean. Especially since I married a foreigner. I hate the feeling of so many people being focused on their jobs, buying more stuff, and going on their nextfancy vacation while there are so many people starving…sometimes I want to just scream it from the rooftops…but then again I heard my own child say she was embarrassed to ride in my husbands beat up work car….which brought me back down a notch and realize I’m from here too….and these are my people here too….but there isn’t a day that goes by rhat I don’t long to be in another country even if its just a moment…..

Tom McCormickJanuary 4, 2014 - 8:35 am

Incredible blog! Love your passion for Jesus! Seeing the world the way God does and seeing what He sees all the time is a blessing but will make you different. Makes you love differently too. I too am from Selmer. My wife, Crystal, and I are praying for you guys!!!!

Francis Jordan AhoJanuary 4, 2014 - 10:15 am

Definitely food for thought… It’s true, we live in different world from where we were raised and at times I feel the connection has become distant or not as well understood. Thanks for the post!

SaraJanuary 4, 2014 - 1:39 pm

Thanks for sharing this, Lauren. I’m a TCK, and the arrogance is something I still struggle with regularly. I am trying to learn that I have much to learn from everyone else’s experiences of the world, too, and I need to get over myself and the occasional urge to pity all those “poor monoculturals” and/or educate them as much as possible from the depths of my great knowledge. Ha.
But I do want to appreciate the gift that my TCK experience has been to me, and I want other TCKs to do the same, because sometimes we struggle with unbelonging-ness, too. So I wrote a book for little TCKs a couple years ago, and I’m just going to be shameless and post the link here, if that’s allowed: http://www.adventistbookcenter.com/swirly.html Jesus gets us. And He has a place for us. And He’s ready to work with us on that arrogance problem, and everything else that needs redemption. :-)

Warren BaldwinJanuary 4, 2014 - 10:05 pm

Linked from your husband’s facebook page.

Very interesting article. What you write has implications for evangelism, assimilation of immigrants in this country (or in a church), and for getting along with neighbors (1/2 of my immediate neighbors are immigrants). I bet your paper will be very insightful for all of these areas of relationships.

I know what you mean by grad work and time. I’m in my last class for a program I am in. Just have to keep the end in mind!

Note: I blog at http://www.warrenbaldwin.blogspot.com if you get a chance to visit.

wb

Kristin KijowskiJanuary 14, 2014 - 4:19 am

Thank you for posting this. It’s nice to know of another soul who feels this way. It is also good to be reminded of who we are, where we came from and those that helped shape us.