One of the best things about being so nomadic is the ability to relate to many different kinds of people. I’ve lived in many different places, so more often than not, when I meet someone new I have some sort of reference point of where they are from, where they live now, and a small understanding of what the culture of their home is.
Live in NYC? Great, I’ve lived in Connecticut. Live in San Francisco? Cool, I lived in SoCal for a few years. From Minnesota? Awesome, I grew up in the Midwest. Moved here from Russia? No way, my good friend from high school was from Siberia.
I got most of the globe covered. And if I have little to no reference point, say for tiny Pacific Islands or Antarctica, I can carry on a conversation about SOMETHING from that area. My love for culture helps with this in so many ways. Sometimes I learn nuances I hadn’t picked up on. Other times I provide a small sense of familiarity to someone who may be far from home.
This weekend, however, I was at a complete loss. I spent the weekend as a leader for a Young Life retreat for high school students. Our group were rough-n-tough, inner city, living-at-or-below-poverty line kids. Meaning I have NOTHING in common with them. Normally, this isn’t a problem since my curiosity starts communication which then eases the tension. This weekend, however, I was met with rude remarks, snide smiles, and blatant ignoring. When some of the kids finally did open up a little, my heart just completely broke. I made a point this weekend to just listen to these kids. I didn’t interject my own story or struggles. I didn’t try to fix their hopeless situations. I just listened and prayed.
One of the kids asked me what I prayed about. When I asked him why he wanted to know, he said he wondered what someone like me could possibly pray about since ‘I have it all together, I have no problems’. He looked at me, a white girl who went to college, and thought my life has been handed to me with no hardship. It made me wonder the image I give off. It made me question how transparent I am. It made me worry if my lack of ability to relate to these kids will spill over to my ministry in South Africa.
So, I sat on the bus ride home praying for these kids. I prayed for their situations. I prayed for their futures. I prayed for healing from their pasts. I prayed God use them in unimaginable ways. And I thanked Him for being bigger than my insecurities and my doubts. I thanked Him for choosing and calling me to spend the weekend with Young Life; for opening my eyes to how my neighbors live.