Thursday, August 12, 2010

Cross-cultural experiences

Cross-cultural experiences happen to us everyday.  And really, if my missions professor taught me anything in seminary it was that "cross-cultural" in most basic form means cross-perspective/worldview.  I interact with someone of a different perspective/worldview...well...every time I talk to someone other than myself (we all talk to ourselves, embrace it).
Begin side note: I've always thought that the most brilliant people in the world are probably the ones with the most involved, active, and witty inner dialogue. End side note.

Over the past few months I have developed a friendship with Steve, a semi-homeless, wholly-jobless, and thoroughly kind-hearted man.

Steve and his cousin came to our Sunday lunch two months ago in need of some groceries.  Being new to town, they needed a little assistance until they acquired their bearings.  We gave them a grocery sack and after dropping the groceries off at their car, they both came back into the church.  With a seriousness in their eyes, Steve's cousin said, "if there is ever anything you or this church needs, anything, give me a call."  And he handed me a slip of paper with their cell numbers.

A few weeks go by, and I receive a call from Steve saying his cousin died unexpectedly during the night.

After walking alongside him in his grief for the past week, discussing his native american religious beliefs, and sharing what we'll miss about his cousin, he tells me that his cousin has been cremated and he's going to spread his ashes in the region where he grew up.  But before he does this he will separate the ashes into separate vials and give them to people who meant a lot in his cousin's life.  I was humbled and a little uneasy as I tried to figure out how to respond to him wanting to give me a vial.  The more I sought to see the world through his culture and perspective, the more I appropriately knew how to interpret this gesture.

So now, I have this little capsule of Steve's cousin's ashes at work.  Is it weird? Nah.  It's a humbling gift from another culture, perspective, and worldview.  And I am honored to receive it.