Wednesday, October 9, 2013

out of bounds

What's that ahead in the road?  A ladder?!?

Way back in fifth grade, I played a mean game of four square during most of my recess breaks. I always kept an eye on the lines, quick to call my co-players when they let the ball slip out of bounds.
Hopefully I've learned a little more grace since fifth grade, but essentially I haven't changed all that much.  My family knows it; recently our children considered buying a t-shirt for me with the inscription, 'I am silently correcting your grammar.'  Thankfully they demonstrate more grace than I deserve, and they left the shirt on the rack.

Maybe that's one reason why God stationed me here in this south-eastern culture, where boundaries are not always so fixed.  People don't necessarily live by the rules that I hold so dear, and somehow they seem to be doing just fine without all of my western limits.

This telephone repair team (in photos) working last week in the middle of a 2-lane street is a classic example of living out of bounds.  In the US, this team would have clearly marked margins - bright orange cones liberally distributed hundreds of feet prior to a cherry-picker truck, warning oncoming traffic to be alert.

An employee in an equally bright yellow vest would be strategically positioned, waving a cautionary 'slow down' sign in order to create the safest work environment possible for these men.  Not here. This team of three included one holding the ladder, one watching from the median, and a third laying his life on the line to keep people connected.

There are other examples of living out of bounds.  One evening last week, Ate Bebing popped into my kitchen as I chopped onions for dinner to say "Good afternoon, ma'am!" and it wasn't even her day to work for us.  She just walked right in our front door to say hello since she was in the neighborhood.  

Two years ago when my dad died, a few acquaintances wanted to come over immediately to share some comfort.  To me, that constituted an intrusion. By my western standard, the initial grieving period is intensely private. Their response didn't fit inside my boundaries.  And my response didn't fit their perspective on grieving together.

Taxi drivers routinely ask questions that are far outside the normal bounds of western etiquette.  They also create their own lanes down the middle of roads. Women friends take my hand to hold, twining arms and holding tight as we have a conversation, far longer than my western sense of personal space dictates.  Car owners think nothing of parking on wide open sidewalk space. (photo below)

 I have it easy here in the city.  Co-workers who have lived in more rural areas of the Philippines tell how they would hide their toothbrushes so that villagers who drop in wouldn't use them to brush their own teeth.

Would these situations make you feel uncomfortable?  I admit that often I'm stretched more than I like by this different standard of boundary.  I have to remind myself that it's not wrong; it's just different.  

“One half of the world cannot understand 
the pleasures of the other.”
― Jane Austen, Emma

At the same time, life in this culture has challenged me to hold my personal standards a little more loosely; to consider the viewpoint of others, and to acknowledge that sometimes fewer boundaries  result in a more healthy environment.  I'm still pretty sure that the lack of boundary might not be so healthy for line repairmen, but it can be incredibly beneficial for relationships when the walls aren't quite so high.

In a culture with fewer boundaries, God is lovingly teaching me to extend a little more grace when the ball crosses the line. And just maybe, because of the grace, it will be even better than recess.


Rosalie said...

Can so relate to you Barb, since we grew up in the same family and the same culture! So glad God opens us up to the realization that Christianity is all about being brought into intimate relationship with our Father, Savior and His Holy Spirit. Relationships are the only thing we'll take with us into eternity. Letting go and not being so concerned with the things that don't really matter can be difficult at first, but feels so good when we actually do it!! Thanks for sharing. Love you much!

Anonymous said...

Several times a week I am reminded that, as a Christian I am in the world but not of the world. This reminded me of our tour of Israel in 1998 ( relatively peaceful time). as our bus crossed through the checkpoint to enter Bethlehem which was/is controlled by the Palestinians. the young (18-20 yr old) guards pointed their Uzzi's at the bus windows and pretended that they were mowing us down, laughing at the shocked faces in the bus windows. Sitting by a window I waved at them, smiling. They stopped mowing and waved back.

us5 said...

sounds like you totally disarmed them, Hank. :)

a smile can sure transform a situation!

Kay @ The Church Cook said...

ha! I had to laugh so hard about the toothbrush!! It happens in my own home where I have to hide it from JH because he uses mine when he can't find his! :0)

Love this post!!