Our world is shrinking.
This isn’t a surprise. Awareness of world events brought about by social media is as natural today as snail mail was the norm decades ago.
Yet I’m still filled with wonder when I find myself surrounded by new and different.
Growing up in the Midwest, the heartland of America, there was a sameness that defined my childhood. A homogeneous existence that characterized how I was raised.
I didn’t know any different.
Our last day in San Francisco, we walked everywhere. Through Chinatown, by the piers, around areas that were unexpected and fascinating. We saw areas of wealth and places inhabited by the homeless. Streets filled with expensive retail and small sectors littered with cardboard, plastic, and people clinging to personal space by their section of chain-link fences.
All within steps of each other.
Our walkabout brought unique sights and sounds. I heard less English and a greater variety of languages and dialects than I can remember.
I’ve been fascinated by languages my whole life. I’m modestly adept at one language–an embarrassed monolingual in a world that aspires to better understanding through communication in different languages. As a child, I dreamed of having a gift of languages where I could hear others speak and understand them, no matter what they spoke. And they could understand me.
It takes time to learn a language. I studied Spanish in school, and living in Florida and traveling to a few Spanish-speaking countries has given me the chance to practice. A little.
I understand more than I can speak.
Which is a gift. I have to really listen and not interrupt to grasp any semblance of conversational flow.
Walking through Chinatown, with unfamiliar languages and dialects, listening was an exercise in frustration and appreciation.
Frustration because I couldn’t understand anything.
Appreciation because the interactions were culturally genuine and beautiful to listen to.
I couldn’t interact with any of them. Apart from smiling and nodding agreeably. Saying “Good morning” with kindness.
My wordiness often causes me to speak quickly or interrupt consistently to get my point across. A family trait. Growing up the reminder was “children should be seen and not heard”, a remark that, I believe, pushed us all toward a need to be heard.
The sign, “Have you found your place in the world?”, misses the point that we all do have a unique place. One only we can fill. Finding it is a journey of understanding who we are.
Our value doesn’t depend on who chooses to listen to us.
God listens. To all who seek Him to know Him. As a loving Father, He listens consistently and answers purposefully.
He’s not surprised by what I say or how I feel. I can’t shock Him with my attitudes and thoughts.
He created diversity. Nobody fills out a form on how life should look. We live with our choices. In a relationship with Him, we have support and guidance.
I may not understand others. God does. I may not listen well. God does.
Heaven will be that place where we’ll all understand and appreciate each other. A genuine, loving embracing of our differences.
Can’t lose that.
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