Archive for the ‘ experience ’ Category

“You Seem American to Me”

I struggle with finding balance for all my experiences and characteristics. It seems that others have a much easier time at expressing themselves in all the ways that they can. Like most Americans, I am multi-ethnic, meaning that I have more than one ethnicity. But my background is more than that, too. I have a Caucasian father and a Puerto Rican mother (and if anyone knows anything about Puerto Ricans, it’s that no matter what percentage it is, it’s Puerto Rican blood nonetheless). I’m not quite multi-cultural in the sense that I was raised in two cultures, but my mom did her best to teach me about Puerto Rican traditions. I’m apparently not really biracial, either, as one co-worker remarked “you seem American to me” after I commented about being biracial. She prodded further, “Do you really consider yourself biracial?” As if to disbelieve that I could be anything more than the one-dimensional office admin.

That’s my issue: people fail to see the multi-dimensional me and I want them to see that. And it’s more than just culture and race, too. I have diverse experiences around the world and in several different communities that it’s hard to piece together. My life feels scattered all over the world, like a dissembled jigsaw puzzle. It’s not that I want the whole world to see who I am–that wouldn’t be possible anyway–but I would like a few friends to see that at least. I think the first time I realized that I wanted a lifelong companion to share all these aspects with was when I stood in front of the Acropolis for the first time and thought “no one will ever know what this means to me.” I want someone to be there for all the important moments in life. Instead, the closest I can get to have that kind of intimacy is in the retelling of those events.

So, my dear co-worker, you see me as the receptionist. But have you seen me with my Puerto Rican family? Have you seen me teach a class? Have you been with me while I lived in the remote areas of Uganda? Or worshipped in a church? In each part of life I am a little different, sometimes very different. I long for someone to see and accept it. Even more, I long for a place where I fit in–but I don’t think there is any place that has all the pieces of the puzzle for me.

Still Trying

I had the experience of living a semester in Uganda where the biggest thing I learned was the most unexpected: poverty, true poverty that exists all around, is further beyond anything I could ever know. That following semester in college, I participated in a “poverty retreat” with my Community Development class—a mere 36 hour simulation of  poverty. I really wish more people could underestimate their experiences more. Glorifying in our ministry or showing off our sacrifice is like fixing something with a broken tool. It is in homeless campouts, poverty retreats, and short term mission trips that we often make it more about ourselves than about others—contrary to what it should be. The most valuable thing we can get from these events is just knowing that we could never really know what it’s like.

But should we not try?

[Read Shannon Moriarty: “Why You Can’t ‘Experience’ Homelessness in One Night”. She writes: A one-night camping experience can never replicate the stress, fear, pain, loss of pride, and loss of hope that often coincides with being homeless.” Amen.]