I hope this finds you enjoying a beautiful fall day! I wanted to share with you an experience I was fortunate to have recently. Our family had the opportunity to host a pastor from South Africa for two days. It was a wonderful experience. I had met this pastor before, on a couple of trips I have taken to South Africa, but there is something different about having uninterrupted time with someone to really have meaningful discussions.
I am sifting through the many things I learned from him while he was here, and so today I will share simply one of them. And, I think sometimes the most valuable lessons we can learn from someone who has a different perspective on life is not necessarily what we learn that is different about THEM but from their unique perspective, what seems different about US. Because we live our lives here everyday, so what we do everyday seems natural and common. But, to someone who does not live here, who lives a very different life, things that seem "normal" to us, may actually appear unusual to them. And that is noteworthy.
The one thing he mentioned specifically was how much we eat - and not only that, but how much we go OUT to eat at restaurants. Granted, the people who hosted him (including us) wanted to expose him to a variety of American cuisine and so taking him out to restaurants was a natural choice. But, it was not only that HE was being taken out to eat at restaurants, but that he also observed how many OTHER people were eating out. There were always people, always eating, and lots of food being served.
It is true, "eating out" has become a standard for us in this country. I'm sure people of my generation and older can remember when "eating out" was a special occasion. Now it is commonplace.
Now, the point of this blog post is not to somehow discourage you from going out to eat. The point is simply to share with you one observation that was made of our culture by someone from a different culture. And, the observation was of something we consider "commonplace." What that means is that there are likely many things about our daily lives that we consider commonplace, but that actually might not be as "normal" as we might think. It might simply seem normal to us living in this time and place. But, to someone from a different culture, "normal" may look very different.
This is an important lesson to learn because when we make assumptions about our own actions, that our actions are "the standard", it can keep us from fully appreciating someone who is different than us. Actually, the most normal thing about life in this big world is how many differences there are. When we assume everyone is like us, it can make us uncomfortable if we encounter someone who seems different. But, if we learn ahead of time that, "while the way I live seems normal to me, there are indeed other ways of approaching life", then we won't be so caught off guard when we do meet someone who is different than us.
If you are planning to go out to eat tonight, do so happily! While you are out, take a look around at how many people seem the same, and how many people seem different. Challenge yourself to take a step back from your life and look in as an outside observer. What are some things about how you live that you always assumed were just "normal" but that once you really take a look, you can see how that might appear strange to someone from a different culture? And then feel good about that amazing lesson you just learned!
Peace to you today,