Sunday, November 27, 2011

beyond my comfort zone

I climb into the taxi, tossing the weight of groceries for our family of five in beside me.  The wrinkled face of the driver peers at me through the rear view mirror festooned with rosary beads and a stuffed bear. "Asa?" "Where to?" he asks, revealing three missing bottom teeth.  "Palihog sa ang balay nako," I say, "To my house, please," and I add the name of my neighborhood.

"Do you speak Visayan?"  he asks, studying me with a little more interest in the mirror.  "Only a little," I laugh, and he switches to speaking English, in courtesy to me, but also to practice his own.  It's then, as we pull away from the curb, that the real questions begin.

"What country do you come from?" 

I've grown used to the questions, the non-stop queries posed with pure curiosity.  We are something of an anomaly in this culture; not many American families live here in Davao.

"How long have you lived in the Philippines?"  
"Are you here for good?"
"What are you doing here?"

Many wonder why on earth a westerner would come here, when so many Filipinos are trying for all they are worth to get to the West.

"Are you married?"
"Is your husband a foreigner?"
"Does he speak Visayan?"

The questions are sometimes very personal, but I've grown used to it.  So used to it that I find myself now asking some of the same questions, ones I'd never pose to a stranger in my home country.

"Do you have children?" 
"How many?"
"How old are they?"
"Do they study here?"
"At what school do they study?"

If an American taxi driver asked me any of these questions, I'd find it incredibly sinister.  But living in this country, my personal boundaries have stretched.  In fact, I even ask these very questions back, especially about their children, and it tickles most drivers to no end.  I've heard some interesting stories about the offspring of taxi drivers.

"How old are you?"

It took me a little longer to reconcile myself to this question.  I used to answer it evasively, "Tigulang," I would say, "an old person," and we would laugh together. But I realize now that maybe it's hard for people to place me in the correct social category of respect if they can't tell how old I am.  So now I tell them my age with a smile.  But please don't expect me to enjoy it.

As we near our house, the questions drive a little harder.

"Do you rent or own?"  
"How much rent do you pay?" 

At this point I'm glad the journey is just about over, because we've now turned the corner beyond my comfort zone.  I work to stay evasive about our cost of rent for a few more moments while I pay and exit the taxi.  I'm poignantly aware that the amount we spend on monthly rent would probably sustain this man's family for quite a while. And I honestly don't understand why God has provided for me to live here in this house, while others around me go home to one room with a dirt floor and no electricity.

But I also know that the hope of the gospel transcends the amount of rent we each pay.  It's not any material wealth we have that defines who we really are, or that brings us any true, lasting joy.  Sure, I've given him some work, and a bit of a tip, too.  But I could never solve his material poverty.

Yet I truly believe that the hope of Christ, and of His salvation, is the true treasure.  It's what relieves the greater poverty of the soul.  And that's exactly why we're here, to share the only wealth that will bring any real hope, transcending all temporary earthly good, and lasting beyond the moths and rust and missing teeth and dirt eternity.

So for today I'll answer the questions; I'll live a little ways outside my comfort zone with the hope that, as a result, someone might find that real, lasting comfort in glory.

May your unfailing love be my comfort...
Psalm 119:76a


Anonymous said...

oh, barbara I love how this post turned out and "trading" awkward questions with you! I totally agree how some of the questions we answer would probably be considered "sinister" if asked by the same person in the US! Oh the strange things we get used to, eh?

Anonymous said...

good post honey ... -your hubby

us5 said...

thanks, Sarah, for grace in sharing your idea! :) yes, sometimes i catch myself remembering first impressions, and i laugh, realizing how used to the differences i've grown.

us5 said...

hi 'hubby'! ♥ do these questions sound familiar to you? :)

Judy said...

So when the guy asks the first question "What country do you come from?" then you should expound on that subject for about 20 min talking non-stop so that he never has a chance to get to the next questions! You can talk all about Seattle and Houston and Savannah and everywhere else you've ever been.

us5 said...

well yes, Judy, knowing what a non-stop talker i am, maybe that's the key! ;p

in reality though, just like you've only heard of Manila in the Philippines, most of them only know California, so to yak about other areas would leave them with eyes glazed over...not a good condition for driving me home... :D