All of us have interesting experiences and strange stories of growing up. Most of the things we remember really happened, although there are some that are only odd because they were seen through young eyes. And strangely enough, memories don’t gain maturity as we grow– they remain the same and our opinion of the situation usually remains unchanged unless we intentionally challenge our perceptions.
Last weekend I had an awesome chance to talk about Simple Extravagance with a group of ladies at our one-day retreat. Garry helped me find some older photos and I spent a chunk of time telling stories. Faith stories from my own memories and experiences. As I shared I was once again awed by God, struck by the blessing it is to have lived a life that has allowed me to see God do incredible things, thankful for the opportunity to reflect on growing up overseas.
The memories brought up other things, also. They reminded me that I will forever be a part American, part-Latin, part ex-pat, part Canadian girl. I joke that I love my coffee because I’m trying to be a white girl: I’m half serious. Some days when I’m tired the effort to “stay relate-able” is almost more than I can make. I love the challenge of being a part of so many things that are basically foreign to me. Some days I almost believe I do fit in, that I’m getting more like the people around me. Sometimes I am thankful for my scattered past and sometimes I wish “Where are you from?” was not a complex question.
This story-sharing has reminded me of the value of asking young people I’ve watched grow up about their past and comparing stories. You see, it is easy to simply see others’ lives through our eyes, to view their privilege and not their pain or vice versa. I can see their lives from my perspective, their history from my vantage point, and interact with them about their past based on my perception of it. Yet it is becoming clear that my perception and theirs are often very different, whether it is my sons or other young people whose histories I share at some level.
I’m sure that part of this is age, but as the chasm between generations seems to widen I wonder what would happen if we simply listened more often. What if we gave extravagant understanding to what we hear instead of trying to redefine it? What if we asked more questions before we gave answers? As I’ve pondered these differences this week, I’ve come to think it is part of the Simple Extravagance of building healthy relationships, and I want to do more of it.
So, as March begins I plan to intentionally be simply extravagant in listening, to seek ways to understand before I try to be understood, to give the next generation a chance to explore their history in a safe place and come to godly conclusions. I believe this has big implications, maybe even bigger for today’s adults who grew up in third cultures.