Monday, August 06, 2007

Wie Gehts?

My pit stains are huge!

I just gave a tour to a group of about 30 pastors who are in town from Germany and Switzerland and even though I gave tours all the time, I was extremely nervous. I think part of it was my nervousness speaking for a translator and interrupting my normal flow plus trying to phrase things concisely and intelligently for easy translation, rather than my usual speaking patter that says the same things three different ways to make sure my bases are covered.

But I want the mocking to cease from the peanut gallery that includes my father and my brother Daniel. They fall over laughing every time we get to talking about the trip we took to Germany at the end of my junior year in high school. I was finishing up my second year studying the German language at a high school level and they expected me to just be throwing off phrases left and right. We didn’t know about my little culture shock problem AND we started the adventure by my dad telling the giant German landlady that she could just tell me how to get to Rothenburg aub de Tauber, which she proceeded to do in rapid German. Can you blame me for shrinking behind my mother for the rest of the trip? I did manage a decent “schones wolkenende” once at a conditerei that I was proud of because it was actually Friday and the beginning of a “good weekend.”

So, I started the tour wishing them, “Gut morgen.” Then I told them that, “Ich heisse Rebecca” which feels weird because my German name in class was Silke. I switched to English and assured them that was all I knew from two years of high school language class 15 years ago. I explained that we watched a lot of movies, though, so I could instruct them to, “Macht die forhinger zu” and “Macht die forhinger auf.” Also, “Macht the lichter zu.” And “Macht die lichter auf.”

Close and open the curtains. Turn the light on and off.

They laughed, which is always a good start to a tour.

Yay, Rebecca, for successful international communication! No more guff from you, Dad. I’ve made good on my education now.

But I was still nervous. I realize that for the first time, I had to explain domestic poverty to people from another country. I had to explain that many of our children live with their grandparents because of drugs. I had to explain that even with government help, working families can’t afford to buy their kids soap and clothing. I had to explain that teachers aren’t paid very well here and that they have to spend $1,000 to $2,000 of their own money every year to make sure that kids have pencils to do math with.

I was ashamed to air out America’s dirty laundry to people from another “developed” country. I recognized this shame in the middle of my talk and made sure that it didn’t make me try to gloss over our problems. These were other Christians. Our identity must be as followers of Christ first and members of the man-made states after. But the shame remained.

We don’t take care of our own.

If we did, the poor would still be with us, but they wouldn’t be trapped in poverty because of their birth, geography and skin color. They would have fallen into hard times recently and could be helped up simply with a little love and charity, rather than needing economic stimulus plans, betterment programs, legislation and affirmative action. We wouldn’t have systemic problems, only individual ones.
I have been surrounded by people that don’t speak English these last couple of months: Africa, the quincineara, shopping with Meena on Devon and this group this morning. These experiences are starting to allow me to see my world as other people might see it: a valuable perspective.

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