Living as a Village in an Individualistic Society (Part 2 of 2)

*If you did not get a chance to read Part 1, you can do so here.

A Swedish proverb, “Honor the house in which you were born, the tree that gave you shade, and the village where you were raised,” reflects the view of a village mentality being beneficial. Within my first post, I noted my views on the village mentality versus an individualistic one. In today’s post, I’m providing concrete examples of how people can live in a village while residing in an individualistic society.

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Will you stay behind the door, or will you enter out into the world and interact with those in the village?

Parking for me and none for you. In the recent weeks, our area experienced a snowstorm which lead to parking spaces needing shoveled throughout our city. Our family opted to buy a house that includes a driveway; however, not all of the houses on our block have driveways so some people must parallel park (note-worthy to mention the street is only one block long, so people do not have to walk very far when visiting homes on this ONE block). After parking spaces were shoveled out, the next week displayed an example of how we could have functioned more as a village than individuals. Snow was piled between some parking spaces, thus limiting the amount of spaces available on the street. I noticed over several days that as a guy would leave his house in the morning, his wife would drift her car forward in an effort to block off both of the parking spots so that no one else could park there all day. Now, I understand that people want a place to park when they arrive home, but here are a few of the issues that I have with that individualistic mindset: it is selfish, the guy is very young and physically capable of walking a few more feet if the spot is occupied when he comes home later that day, one of these spots is actually in front of our property and this family didn’t actually do any of the shoveling that many others completed when the storm occurred. A village mindset embraces looking out for one another and helping each other, even before one’s self.

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Living as a Village in an Individualistic Society (Part 1 of 2)

 

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Do you stay behind the glass door, or do you go outside and engage with the community around you?

For quite some time I have struggled with why members of society function in manners that seem somewhat selfish and uncaring. Searching for the reason, I have engaged in many conversations with people from different backgrounds, while pressuring myself to step outside of my comfort-zone. Growing up in the American society has generally lead me down the path that many in my generation (and I’d venture to say even more so with the younger generations) have entered – the path of individualism. We are searching for how to display our uniqueness, how to climb the corporate ladder the quickest, how to gain success in the easiest (perhaps read laziest) manner and at the end of the day, how to get what I want. Years before I became a parent, I believed in the African proverb quote, “It takes a village to raise a child,” yet it was only during the past few years that I actually began to live out that belief.

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Tips for a Multi-Cultural Marriage

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Throughout my marriage, there have been several times when I have gone to speak with friends about situations and they simply do not understand. These conversations can be simple: what one wears to a wedding, or complex: the history of faith and its roots in culture. Many times I end up frustrated because I feel like instead of having a friendly conversation, I am defending cultural views/beliefs. These experiences have lead me to develop tips for being in a multi-cultural marriage.

 

Hold on strong to the truths you know within your relationship. There will be times when people question elements of your marriage. Often it is because they come from a different culture and they do not understand beliefs within other cultures around the world. This can create friction, confusion and headaches. One small example that I quickly learned about in my marriage was the concept of framing favors as questions, or statements. In the American culture, we are taught that you are respectful of others by asking them to do something. If I was busy trying to prepare for company, I would ask my connected-1327191_1280husband, “Can you help with the dishes while I XYZ?” This bothered him so much and I could not understand why. Now, to be honest, it is still odd to me, but let me explain his cultural viewpoint. In my husband’s culture, you do not ask your family to do you a favor; you tell them to do it. As a family member, you are expected to do things to help the family unit as a whole and so one should not have to ask you to complete a task. Asking the family member to do a favor is seen as offensive because you are questioning if they are willing to do their part. This was far from my interpretation of the situation, but throughout the initial months, I attempted to retrain myself in how I phrased favors. I did not try to change it because my husband’s cultural view is correct and mine is wrong, but rather because the more valuable aspect was that I wanted my husband to know that I respect him and I did not wish for my wording to come across as otherwise. At times, you may find yourself wanting to shout at others, “What don’t you understand!?! Not all people have the same beliefs as your culture. That doesn’t mean one is more ‘right’ than the other.” (More examples of that in the next bullet point.) Instead of shouting statements like these, just focus on the truths that have been developed within your marriage. As long as the two of you understand where the other is coming from, or as long as you stand together despite your differences, this is all that matters. One of the many beauties in a multi-cultural marriage is that your children will be blessed with having a well-rounded view because they are exposed to different cultures and you can teach them the strengths within those varying cultures.

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Review: American Baghdad

About three months ago, I was visiting a friend in New York City and he told me that he recently watched a short documentary entitled American Baghdad. (I strongly encourage you to take a few minutes to watch this short film to gain a better understanding of people who may come from a different place than you.) Time passed and I completely forgot to look into watching it, until today.

From my experiences and interactions with others, I found this documentary to be an accurate depiction of Iraq and its people. Highlighted in this short video are primarily two generations – the older, and the younger. The older generation appreciates their opportunity to safely live in America, while they lovingly long to be back in their motherland. They know it is unsafe to move back home, but yet they still miss the pieces of their lives that were there. Often when we speak of refugees (or also, people who were granted asylum somewhere), I do not think we recognize that they can value being in a safer geographic location, while still having a heart that desires to be home. These individuals leave their country because they are forced to leave. It is unsafe for them to remain living there. That does not have to equate to where they want to be. Those can honestly be two different things and that is okay. Who would want to be uprooted from your home…your family…your professional career…your friends…your memories? American Baghdad displays the genuine sense of security and gratefulness for a new country, while still having a heart that longs for home.

At the same time, the younger generation is having a slightly different experience. Like their elders, they value living in a new country. This younger generation also sees their life as being firmly established here. They more quickly adjust to life in a new culture, with a new language, new types of food, new people and everything else that comes with this huge life transition. The youth then begin to build memories in their new country and they have not yet begun their professional careers, so the future is wide and completely new for them as they go throughout childhood. I believe that makes things easier for this generation as they begin to build their new lives in their new country.

Those differences being identified, there was much in this film that I have repeatedly heard from the individuals whom I have met over the years. The fact that many subgroups were part of the Iraqi culture. The fact that religions lived alongside one another peacefully. The fact that life may have been hard over the years in that specific region, but they fully loved their country (This touches me personally because I feel like in my lifetime, I have only seen that deep love for one’s country right after 9/11 and after a few months, it seemed to disappear again. I long to see that passion in today’s youth within my country.). The fact that people were thriving, even with hardships. The fact that people were friendly, warm and inviting. The fact that humanity could bloom, even when under the rule of a harsh dictator.

And then, it was all taken away.

Ahmeli… that we would lovingly have honest and open dialogue with those who are different from “us” as we strive to become a more united and humbled country.

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via Daily Prompt: Lovingly

Kind Words Warm Cold Days

 

It’s cold right now in our area as we trek through the winter months. Nevertheless, the cold weather never keeps us away from getting our shopping done at the local market. It was there, today, that kind words warmed up the cold day.

As we walked through the aisles in the market, a lady whom we know from there approached us. She told my husband, “I saw you on TV the other day.” They had a casual conversation about the report and then as we were parting ways, she said something so kind (and even though she doesn’t completely know my husband, it is oh so very true of him!). She explained that her previous career, until retirement, was as an elementary teacher and that the teachers would handle hard events in a delicate manner with the young students. In paraphrasing, she said, “When events like 9/11 happened, we would tell the small children that if anything bad happens, they should look for the ‘helpers’. We explained that these people will help to keep them safe and that would bring comfort to the students.” Then she concluded by placing her hand on my husband’s shoulder and saying in a solemn voice, “You are one of those people. You are a helper.” And with that, we all warmly smiled and parted ways.

This lady might not know my husband, but she is completely correct! He is a helper. He is a safe person. He is the one that keeps the peace. The one who calms others. The person people turn to when their worlds feel out of control, or even just slightly uneasy. God gave him a special gift and he humbly exerts it each day as he interacts with everyone – from family members, to a newly arrived refugee, to coworkers, to a random stranger on the street. And during these challenging days, that dear lady in the market offered the kindest words that warmed this cold day. Thank you!

 

Ahmeli… that we don’t shy away from saying something kind to someone we pass, even if we do not know them well. You may never know the impact of your words.

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Questions for the Protestors

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In connection with my recent posts here and here on President Trump’s recent executive order on immigration and refugees, I received a forward to this article which I wanted to share. It stemmed from a Facebook post by Justen Charters where he points out the many times over the past several years where very disheartening events were happening (and continue to) all over the world, and yet Americans were not protesting in huge crowds. It continues my thoughts that if everyone is genuinely concerned and wanting to improve things around the world, then why were you not speaking up all around the country when these horrific events were playing out around the world? Is it because the media was busy publicizing something else? Is it because it was not “popular” back then? These people’s lives are important and we should be standing up for them at ALL times, not just when it is the popular thing to do in that moment. Do you want to just be another face in front of the cameras? Or are you looking to truly enact change, even when no one sees the good deeds you are doing???

 

Ahmeli… that we will stand up for people during their trials, even when no one sees nor acknowledges our efforts. Do what is right during the time of need.

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Are We Looking in the Mirror?

As I’ve been watching numerous news reports this week, I have reflected a lot on President Trump’s executive order on extreme vetting. Now (before the Internet Trolls come to attack), this is not a political post, nor is it one where I will be defending one side versus the other. Truth of the matter is that what I have been reflecting on has been happening throughout many years and during that time the political scene has changed back and forth. So, for me, it is not about a certain president nor a certain political party. It is about one country and its entire people – America. I’m simply sharing some random thoughts that I have been having throughout this week.

I try to be understanding of different views and, even though I have strong views myself (and that might be stating it in gentle terms), I try to find the positives in other people’s points of view (after all, that is the focus of Ahmeli…to share our different views and learn from one another). That being said, I understand the desire to keep America safe (what country doesn’t want to be safe!?!). I get that Americans don’t want to experience terrorist attacks (who does!?!). I get that systems designed to allowed entry into the U.S. has flaws (what human created system doesn’t!?!). However, I am still left with other questions floating through my mind.

One of the big ones is: Okay, so we are trying to keep our country safe and search for ways to improve the entry processes. I get that and I understand why people want that. However, aside from 9/11, how do the number of murders by terrorists in the U.S. compare to the number of other murders throughout the country? I didn’t research the exact numbers, and I am not going to because there is tons of false information all over the place, but I would bet money that more people are murdered by American-born individuals than foreign-born. Now, this concept kind of sounds twisted to me because I am not weighing the deaths of innocent people’s lives. They are ALL important and they are the loved ones of people who miss them every second of every day. (So let’s focus on my actual point instead of reading into it incorrectly.)

My point is that I get wanting to stop terrorist attacks, but what about all of the murders that we are committing among ourselves? What are we, as a society (because we should not just place it as a burden on people “in charge”… we all have an obligation to improve our country), doing to stop those? What changes are we making in how we raise our children to better ensure that they value human lives and do not think they have a right to kill someone? Who is stepping up and making honest changes in our society to decrease the number of murders? When will we care more about honoring human life than the term “snitch”? Why do we focus on only certain labels of types of murder; are not all murders bad? Why are we not seeking to change the root of why Americans are killing one another every single day? Why are we not talking about the rise in deaths where people are killing themselves through overdosing on drugs? Can you really evoke change if you do not address what is honestly happening in our own homes and in our own streets?

I just don’t get it. Yes, you can only fix one thing at a time. I get that. And the truth of the matter is nothing will ever be perfect here on Earth. Yet still I wish we would look at the root of problems and look in the mirror ourselves. Do we not see what we are doing to ourselves? To our neighbors? To our friends? To our society? I am sure the internet has played a role in how often we hear about violent crimes nowadays, but the statistics also reveal that we are having more violent crimes committed as the years pass. So it just leaves me wondering, when will we start focusing on how we can improve our families, our neighborhoods, our cities and our country? Will the positive change start with you???

 

Ahmeli… that we begin to show unity through positive actions instead of negativity or just talking.

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