Readers – I’m over at A Life Overseas today! I hope you’ll come join me as I write about cultural humility and what we do when we offend in a country where we are guests.
Here is an excerpt:
“This is My Fate” – A Lesson in Cultural Humility
As soon as the angry words came out of my mouth, I regretted them. I was speaking to Rehmet, the woman who helped me care for my kids and my home.
She was a Punjabi woman, uneducated, illiterate, with a smile that stretched across a beautiful, weathered face and a personality as big as her smile.
We were living in Islamabad, Pakistan and Rehmet had come into my life by way of her husband who had done some handiwork for us around the house. She had five children and lived in a slum on the outskirts of the city. She was tireless in her energy and her talking. At one point I despaired to my mom that I couldn’t understand her. “She speaks so quickly!” I wailed. “My Urdu can’t keep up”. My mom began to laugh – “Don’t worry” she said. “She’s actually speaking Punjabi”.
We had slowly developed a relationship that went far beyond employee/employer. I considered her my friend. We would sit down with tea, communicating with my limited Urdu and her fluent Punjabi. We would mate socks together, cook, scrub vegetables, and rearrange furniture. She loved my kids, and I thought I loved her.
But there we were. A Pakistani woman and an American woman side by side, me letting my tongue loose. She had ruined some clothes by bleaching them and I was angry. After all, if this had happened in the United States I would voice disapproval over the mistake and demand my money back……Read more here.
- Because Love is Not Rude (Communicating Across Boundaries)
- Weak & strong, safe & unsafe, militant & non-militant. Long live Pakistan! (dawn.com)
5 thoughts on “Guest Posting at A Life Overseas – “This is My Fate””
I struggled so much with having a servant and dealing with this stranger in our home during our early years in Pakistan. And I was not filled with very much cultural humility at that stage. I am so thankful that God in His grace kept us there long enough for me to learn so much from those who served us in our home. There was Taj, a lovely Christian man who came with me to the hills for the summer. I found out he was overcharging on the things he got for me in the bazaar. I was very upset and a few years before I would have confronted him in anger. In my bedroom I took a deep breath, and I prayed. What was going on? Then I wondered, how was he managing his own meals without his wife. He lived in a little room behind our house, and we had given him a small stove. Did he have enough money to buy food for himself? I went out to the kitchen and asked him. I found that he had sent most of his money to his wife. Ralph had told him not to give me any trouble, so he didn’t want tell me. We talked it over and for the rest of the summer he ate out of our food budget. It really didn’t cost that much more, specially since we were feeding teen-aged boys. I had come so close to confronting in anger and here this man who was serving us had the choice of cheating us or going hungry. I was so thankful that the Lord in His grace stopped me before I did damage to our relationship. I wish I could say I never messed up after that. It would not be true, living in Pakistan was a life long learning experience. But I wouldn’t trade those lessons for anything. I could write a book about other servants and my relationships with them,but this is too long already!
Hi Marilyn! Thanks so much for your contribution on A Life Overseas. I appreciate the storytelling format that you use. Thanks for being transparent and touchable.
Feel free to respond to the people who have been commenting. I am sure they would love to hear from you.
part of the editorial team at A Life Overseas
Thanks so much Angie! It was a real honor for me to be able to post. I’ve been off line most of the day because of work but will head over tonight and respond. Thanks again. I love what you’re doing on the site.
Marilyn Gardner Sent from my iPhone
Marilyn, what a heartfelt, poignant reminder of cultural humility. Our first overseas move was to Sudan, where I too was guilty of similar insensitivities. I quickly learned that life outside the USA was very different – a steep learning curve – and that I needed to do a better job of listening and learning about this new culture. What a great life lesson it was to be humbled. Thanks for this wonderful reminder. All the best, Terri