Wednesday, 29 March 2017

A Bad Attitude

I had a bad attitude on Monday. I let petty cultural differences annoy me. I couldn't understand Joshua's* English and I felt frustrated. Instead of asking him to repeat what he said, I smiled wide and nodded. I just didn't want to put the work into communicating through such an extremely heavy accent. 

My mom would say that, "I woke up on the wrong side of the bed." Perhaps I did, but that is no excuse for lacking patience. I was letting myself get frustrated with someone who was different from me- who spoke differently from me, who was educated in a different way than me. 

Monday night, while I was walking home from class, God convicted me of my bad attitude and bad behaviour. I had not been trying to engage Joshua* and I’m sure that my face revealed my frustration quite a bit. As I stumbled my way down the hill, I walked past a group of young people. I'm never quite sure whether one of them will have a smart aleck remark or if they will walk past quietly or if they will want to greet me and ask, "are you married?" 

As I approached them, I somehow felt that this was not going to be one of the quiet encounters. Groups of teenagers frequently show off to their peers- no matter the country, culture or language. As I passed by, one of the boys in the groups greeted me, “how are you?” Many people here believe that us westerners speak in a nasal tone and so try to mimic this tone when talking to a native English speaker. Some think that they are being friendly but they always come across sounding downright obnoxious. A few of the younger children believe that this is the appropriate way to greet the stranger- speaking as if they were plugging their noses. But, because I do not possess the language skills to explain this way of speaking comes across as rude, I have chosen to ignore these types of greetings. (The numerous other greetings- "Mzungu!" "How are you?" "Hi!"- I gladly return).

But I was convicted. Here I was fuming about Joshua* not trying to adapt his language to be understood and here this group of young people was making fun of my language. 

Was it possible that the difficulty I had in understanding Joshua mirrored the difficulty this community had understanding my language? While I have consciously adapted the way I speak since I first stepped off the plane three months ago, how do I know that Joshua* was not doing everything he could to be understood? 

The people in this community have graciously welcomed me with open arms. Why couldn’t I do the same with Joshua*? He was the visitor after all. I, as the visitor, had been welcomed. Why couldn’t I, as the host, welcome others? 

I thank God for using a group of rude teenagers to convict me of my sin. God and I had a long conversation Monday night. Tuesday morning I made sure that I got up on the right side of bed, walked to school with a smile on my face, and devoted extra patience to communicating with Joshua*. He was, after all, doing his very best to speak my language. The very least I could do was listen with patience and try to understand.

I can proudly say that we are now friends and, over time, my ears have slowly adapted to understanding his English. 

* not his real name.

1 comment:

  1. I really like this!!! Wow I'm loving what you doing!! God bless you girl