Friday, June 15, 2007

Welcome to Cakesville...population 7

well...8 if you count the dog.
and, we do.

When we were living in Northern Minnesota, we lived in a small town. a very. small. town. Population 1,100 people. 1,300 if you included all the surrounding villages and scary backwoods places. It was also situated on a beautiful lake that attracted a lot of recreationers. Basically, we were a resort town.

Because we were a resort town, and because I was one of the town's 3 pastor's wives, I was a pretty frequent tour guide of sorts. Sure, there were questions about the antique stores and the coffee shop etc, but I got most of the questions about what it was like to actually live there. year round. Some people were interested because they thought it would be neat, some people couldn't believe we were crazy enough to live there because we seemed like such normal people, some people wanted the town's history, some people were rudely curious (that typical American Tourist). And as official Pastor's Wife, I was generally a pretty friendly guide. But, sometimes, I just wanted to answer, "It's like living anywhere else but with lots of snow and TOURISTS!" Luckily, I never did yell that at anyone...outside of my head.

Shaz's comment on my last post got me thinking. When I worked at Borders bookstore, there was a 40 something year old African American woman who worked with me. Her name was Chris and I liked her a lot. For some reason she liked me a lot, too. We would talk about all kinds of things, but I would always end up slipping in some sort of cultural question. Genuinely interested (especially because of our urban ministry), genuinely needing help trying to avoid or fix a miscommunication, genuinely trying to understand cultural differences and perceptions. She was always very nice and gentle in her explanations, but one day I realized I was forcing the "Tour Guide" role on her. I apologized and she laughed and said it was really ok, to ask.

In many ways, we are all tour guides. Tour Guides for our way of life. Sometimes by people genuinely interested, sometimes by people trying to prove how crazy and wrong we are, sometimes by people who incorrectly feel they deserve an answer. But, how we respond tells as much about us, as what we say. The tour guide, rightly or wrongly, represents the place.

Chowder and I now get asked lots of really funny questions by our church's African American youth. And sometimes we need them to be tour guides, too. I find myself calling on others to walk me through their cultures, sometimes I have to stop myself because the timing is all wrong or it really is none of my business. But, sometimes I go ahead. And then I learn how to tell when a Mango is ripe, how to get the curry just right, I get to see the beauty of the fabric in a woman's sari, and understand why a symbol has such importance. And these are good things to know and learn and appreciate about each other.

And as I learned while I was living in that little town, sometimes being asked to act as tour guide gives me a brand new appreciation for my way of life. I point out things I had taken for granted for so long, I think about questions I never bothered to answer for myself, I get a chance to look at the big picture through another's eyes and see things I hadn't noticed before.

So Shaz, I thank "you" for being so kind to me when I asked about the age women start covering their heads when we were in Target the other day. "You" were a very friendly guide to a very silly girl.


MonkeysMama said...

I found your blog through Shaz's :)

Your post is thoughtful, and I the photos of your family!