I’m in the Chicago O’Hare airport getting ready to spend another night sleeping in the terminal. Oh joy.
So I didn’t kiss the ground when I got off the plane in Miami, but did step outside to bask in the aura of freedom and prosperity this country exudes. Great to be back in good ‘ol USA!
Even though my primary citizenship is with God’s Kingdom and my highest loyalties are there, nonetheless as I entered America I felt a swelling sense of pride in the great privilege I have of being an American citizen. For all its’ faults, the US is truly still a great place. At least I like it.
I didn’t know what I had here until I left and saw my other options.
Having said that, Miami airport doesn’t really feel like America proper as it gives off a dinstinctly Latin American vibe. I caught myself trying to speak Spanish with the US customs agent who looked and talked foreign, but was indeed quite American.
One funny incident happened as I was shuffling through a lengthy security checkpoint in Miami: An airport staffer was being downright rude in directing people through the confusing labyrinth of cordoned off security lanes. I could tell this lady in front of me was becoming disgusted with him (as we all were) because she was making ugly faces behind his back. I had a hunch she wasn’t American, so leaned over and asked where she was from? “Scotland,” she answered in a thick brogue. I laughed, then told her confidentially something to the effect, “Well, I’m from Kansas and I want to personally say to you, ‘Welcome to America!’” She seemed better after that and even began smiling, adding, “Aye, many an American seem ah-be friendly, but not all of ‘em, eh?”
Language is truly a big deal. It’s great to be able to understand and talk to people again. I can even talk to Scotts, brogue notwithstanding. I never realized how much I depended on speaking until I couldn’t anymore. Over the last six weeks spending so much time with kids I couldn’t help compare it with the time earlier this summer as a camp counselor in Missouri. There I was able to deeply communicate with my campers, regaling them with Bible information and personal testimonies, not to mention administer discipline and exchange jokes and banter. All those activities are much more difficult (impossible?) when you can’t speak freely.
“Comprendo?” they would often ask hopefully after jabbering some important tidbit of information to me. Sadly, the answer was often no.
Despite the language hurdle, I have built connections with Dominican’s who only speak Spanish, like the neat teenage boy below. His name is Haziel and his 16th Birthday is next week – feel really bad I’ll miss it…
And I’ve gotten to know kids who speak only Haitian Creole, like my favorite girl from Son of God in the picture below (she’s the adorable one who burst into tears one day when she learned I had to leave).
But regardless of what language people speak, they are all still people.
One analogy I came up with regarding different cultures is different operating systems on a computer. Like a Mac versus a PC: similar hardware but different software. They act different, but do the same things.
Someone from America vs. Haiti make appear different on the outside in regards to customs and lifestyle, but inside they have the same hopes, desires, and fears.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has also frequently come to mind on this trip.
I’ve had kids literally beg me for a piece of bread (“Pen? Pen?” they would implore pitifully) as well as literally beg me for attention (and in some cases get angry when they didn’t get it). These kids had pressing physical and emotional needs.
On the flip side, I’ve also met kids who had a consistent source of daily bread and attention ask me for help with their Math homework. Their needs were as real as the former, but different: more along the lines of emotional support and educational guidance.
There have been other needs as well.
For instance, I’ve spent late nights with missionaries who perhaps had a need of expressing themselves with someone who could understand and converse. I think they had a desire to debrief certain life experiences… and I had a desire to learn from their experiences.
I’ve met still others (and I may be in this category) who seem to have every need met… yet who are searching for meaning, who wonder if every pursuit in life is pointless or if there is a God who has meaningful work for them? Work of a redemptive nature: overcoming the tide of evil in this world with a tide of good… through divine power, through supernatural guidance, and through the challenge of deep, vulnerable relationships. Is the possibility of living meaningfully pure fiction, or potential reality?
On a lighter note – and completely different topic – I’ve had fun hearing the music abroad and seeing the delight song and dance bring to young and old.
The boys watched a movie last week with a catchy song in it and ever since have sung it over and over, often to the accompaniment of clapping and much laughter. Good times. They get into the singing on Sunday mornings too, but enjoy even more aiding Jon’s guitar strumming with sundry percussive instruments. Sometimes on beat, sometimes not.
At the airports in both Port-au Prince and and Puerto Plata there were bands of live music playing “mariachi-style” repetitive upbeat tunes. Kinda fun, yet also kinda odd as I’ve never seen a comparable equivalent in an American airport.
By far the most moving music I’ve heard in my travels was a group of Haitians singing at the YWAM base. Their harmonies were beautiful, the language crisp and punctuated, and their lifted voices exuding such passion and emotion it nearly made me cry. It was unique, uplifting, and special – wish I’d gotten a movie.
Below is a picture of several of us playing around with the keyboard:
OK, enough soliloquy and waxing eloquent for one night. Time for bed! Thanks for reading all this if you did, hopefully it was beneficial and not too boring.