This past year my family and I, for the first time in a long while, lived in the States for more than a few months, and we did normal things like buy couches off Craigslist and find the best deals in town for ground beef. Tate went to school for kindergarten, we joined a homeschool co-op for first grade, and we finally caught up through season five on 30 Rock.
These daily liturgies were things I dreamed of when we lived overseas. I grew to love our cross-cultural life, but I’d be lying if there weren’t many days that I longed to completely understand the language spoken around me in coffee shops, for my blonde children to not be stared at, to not be the foreigner. I’d read about my friends’ playdates on Facebook and I’d yearn for Everyday American Life.
We recently moved to a brand new town in the States, knowing not a soul, and we jumped in with both feet. It was actually easier than we anticipated; I guess because we’d done the same thing four and a half years ago, but in a new culture with a different language. Moving to Oregon was a piece of cake compared to that—we just needed to stock up on polar fleece vests and remember that it’s pronounced Will-AM-ette.
But now that we’re here, living in our passport country, I get the itch. I miss being foreign. I miss everything being interesting. I miss all the good things of other cultures and wish I could brush away all the bad things about American culture.
More than anything, however, I miss living an adventure.At my old “grocery store.”
Overseas, I constantly felt like I was in an adventure. Even in the mundane of hanging laundry on the line and standing on the crowded bus with an armful of groceries (and these were most days, mind you), it always felt interesting, because I was wearing foreign lenses. Every bit of life was filtered through my home culture, so life, while frustratingly hard, never failed to at least be interesting.
But my world did a 180 when I went to the Philippines last May with Compassion. I’ve been in plenty of countries and seen my fair share of poverty, so it wasn’t just those things that shook my core. Here I was, visiting a stellar ministry that works among the poorest of the poor, as an average member of western society. As I listened to the volunteers and kissed Filipino cheeks, I represented millions of moms who spend their days making PBJs and driving to Costco. I was now a card-carrying member of the workaday Janes who live in the first culture, and I was visiting the third.
And that’s when it hit me—that adventure can happen anywhere. Story, and living a good one, is deeply etched in every one of us, from the old lady washing her clothes in the river to the 30-something mom loading her Maytag in the suburbs. No matter where we are, we are given the opportunity to write a great story with our words and thoughts and actions, and why? Because we woke up again this morning. We’re alive.
The setting of my story right now is in central Oregon, supporting sweet children through Compassion. We give and pray for many, many friends still living cross-culturally. And we work. Make dinner. Teach school. Fold jammies. Run to Trader Joe’s. And every day we look at the giant map on our wall in the living room and remember to care and pray for the rest of the world.
Uncle Ben was right—with great power comes great responsibility. And if we were to equate power with wealth (which is both true and untrue in today’s world), then we average westerners are spectacularly powerful. If the world was only 100 people, then six of us would be Americans, and we would hold half of all the money.
But unwieldy power is crazy dangerous—that’s why most lottery winners file for bankruptcy a few years after their big win. Knowledge is essential to use our wealth—financial and otherwise—for good and not evil. We westerners owe it to ourselves and the rest of the world to learn what’s really going on in the world so that we can wield our power responsibly and ethically.
Here are a few ways how:
• Keep up with the news. Not just the local news, read the international version. BBC is a great place to start to get a non-American perspective on the globe.
• Teach your kids about different countries and cultures. Make it a normal part of your everyday life.
• Have a globe or map in your home. Refer to it often, and keep them accessible for your children, so they can learn geography.
• Learn basic geography. Know the location of Bhutan and understand the difference between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. This year, I’d like to learn all the capitals and countries of Africa and to be able to place them on a map.
• Spend your money wisely. Invest where it matters, and don’t spend where it doesn’t.
• Learn, learn, learn. Listen to speakers who know what’s really going on around the world, and read their books. Be a student of the world and its current issues.
Intentionally choose to remove the blinders that keep you out of the loop of what’s really going on. The world will be better for it.