Thursday, September 27, 2007

cross cultures: the outcome

the actual reaction: the new girl replies, "i don't have anything to say to you," then turns and walks away.

at home, the new girl relates the events of the day. her insightful mother gently suggests that perhaps something else was going on in that interaction. maybe they were trying to figure out something about you -- specifically, do you identify yourself as black? together with that, perhaps they were (as some of you commenters suggested) trying to start a conversation, albeit in a clumsy and unpleasant way. if the theory were true, the new girl had inadvertently confirmed their worst fears. might it be worth going back to ask them about their intention?

not surprisingly, the new girl is not so sure. she's been through a lot of transitions lately, and it seems like everything is difficult. why set yourself up for rejection? but the next day, she confronts the other girls and asks: is shoving me your way of trying to get to know me? answer: no. and yet somehow, the conversation is able to flow in a more positive direction, and everyone ends up friendly (not quite friends, yet) towards one another.

what do i learn from all of this?
  • the cw about transitions (especially in high school) is true -- they can be hard and painful, and i'm not sure if there's a way around that.
  • understanding one another across cultures can be a treacherous business. my own interpretation of the first event was that they were trying to see if the new girl was an easy mark, or if, instead, she'd stand up for herself. i probably would've gotten into a fight that day. good thing the new girl's mom is sharper than that!
  • engaging in relationships across cultures takes courage and determination. misunderstandings are a given. can we recover? are we willing to risk rejection (and maybe our physical safety) to build bridges of trust and rapport?
the new girl has had much to deal with in her new surroundings. it makes her sad a lot of the time. hopefully, the joy is on the way.

hear, o Lord, and be gracious to me;
o Lord, be my helper

you have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
you have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness
that my soul may sing praise to you and not be silent
psalm 30:10-12

1 comment:

marguerite said...

we'll keep praying for both of your new girls -- glad n could listen to her mom's wise counsel; n showed a lot of courage in going back the next day and initiating the next interaction -- may joy come in the morning.