When you are the only one in the crowd who looks like you and talks like you, it’s a strange feeling. But it’s a valuable experience for us know what it is like to be really different from everyone else.
This happens occasionally on missions trip. I have had a few experiences where I was alone in a foreign country; I didn’t speak the language and I couldn’t read the signs. This happened to me both in Haiti and in Indonesia. Talk about feeling vulnerable! I tried to make myself as unnoticeable as possible. I didn’t want to bring attention to myself. No eye contact, look confident and brave, try to look tough so as to discourage any would-be thugs looking for an easy mark. And once those experiences were over, it was a huge relief to get back with a more familiar crowd – where I was like everyone else.
The picture above is my 2 year-old granddaughter, Sophia. She is being raised in Central America where her parents direct an orphanage (casashalom.net). She is the only white child among 70. Blonde hair and blues eyes really stand out. If her family remains there, she will be raised as a member of the minority culture. While she will certainly face challenges because of this, she will grow up with a unique perspective on life.
The more of a minority you are, the more you feel out of place. Well, you are out of place – that’s the point! Stuff happens in your heart when it is painfully obvious that you are not like everyone else.
I think that there is tremendous value in, from time to time, being in the minority:
- You learn compassion and empathy for people who live this way. Many people spend their entire lives as a minority. They can never truly relax. They are always being profiled. Now you know a little bit about how they feel – there is value in that.
- You increase your awareness of and sensitivity to the culture around you. You watch others and try to behave as they do. Becoming a part of the people takes top priority. This is a valuable skill for missionaries. The Apostle Paul discusses this in I Corinthians 9:19-23.
- You walk carefully, not wanting to offend someone or create a cultural faux pas. One unintentionally rude mannerism can get you into big trouble. You grow in your ability to relate to other cultures.
- Your vulnerability keeps your ego in check. It’s hard to be arrogant when everyone thinks you are strange.
- You learn to appreciate your familiar surroundings. Once you get back home, you can feel the security of your safe zone, and it feels nice.
I believe this also relates to our lives as Christ-followers on this earth. The Bible tells us that we are aliens; we are not citizens of this world (John 17:14, Philippians 3:20, I Peter 2:11). We must remember that we are out of place here. Let’s not get too comfortable. Let’s not let down our guard. Let’s walk carefully. Remember, we are the minority.
Go for it. Take a trip or put yourself in a situation where you are the one who is different. Be deliberate about it. I think it will change your perspective.