Why We Can't Dismiss The Little Differences

In your day-to-day life, who is seeing everything from a different cultural lens? 

I have often shared little differences between my husband Billy and me that impact our day-to-day. Many are influenced by the fact we are from different places and backgrounds. We can't distinguish between lemons and limes. We have disparate ideas about how to greet people. We even confuse each other when saying "next year." 

Minor hiccups that stem from our cultural differences.

This week, we had the opportunity to share at Gabriella's school about our identities and navigating life together. I told a story I've shared here before of a time when we were hosting a party. 

I sent Billy to the store to buy chips while I continued setting up for our guests. When he returned, I eagerly reached for the chips, but my triumph quickly changed to disappointment when I saw what he'd purchased. 

"Awh, man," I said, holding up my ranch dip. 

"What?" Billy asked. "Why do you have that? Where's the salsa?"

"I asked you to get chips, not tortilla chips!"

"Wait. What did you want?" he asked before nodding. "Oh, but you asked for chips, not potato chips!"

I love this story because I feel like it so clearly illustrates the general state of our marriage and of many cross-cultural friendships. Our assumptions are often in question, and we work together with a lot of grace and humor to figure out how to eat carbs and party together. 

Sometimes people try to tell me that these examples are not a big deal or that people put too much focus on culture. I will agree that a lively debate about whether limes are unripe lemons is not the intercultural communication wizarding of the U.N.. But I believe it still holds value.

This quote in a New York Times article, "Foreign Spouse, Happy Life," sums it up nicely: 
Anyone who risks a life with someone outside of his in-group — not only across lines of nationality, but also those of religion, race and class — becomes a participant, whether he knows it or not, in a global experiment in developing empathy. The awareness and negotiation of small differences add up to a larger understanding about the complexities of the world.
We are all working to navigate our global world. And as my muse Daniel Tiger says, "Keep trying. You'll get be-e-tter!" Figuring out what kind of chips our partner is requesting is practice for future cross-cultural interactions. 

We learn to ask questions. We learn to be more specific. We learn to be flexible, roll with the punches, and keep a strong sense of humor.

All these little differences are helping us build up our cross-cultural muscles. And that's important. Because sometimes conversations on multiculturalism or diversity can feel overwhelming, especially if you've spent much of your life in a monocultural environment.

But starting with friendships and working out all the quirky ways culture pops up is not to be dismissed. This practice helps us get more comfortable and more confident and will lead us to greater risks and wider hospitality. And when it's time for that big, multicultural party, we'll be sure to offer a wide variety of chips!

Where do you see these moments of practice in your life?

Stop Licking the Fireball!

My three-year old sat on the steps, licking a Fireball. And sobbing.

I love the fiery, hot red candies, and I've gotten my daughter hooked on them, too. However, Atomic Fireballs have become a bit of an issue in our house as of late.

Gabriella begs for one, then takes about two hours to carry the bleeding candy around the house, smearing red onto non-red things and occasionally tasting it and over reacting in her need for water. However, she seems to mostly enjoy the experience.

My son. Not so much. There he is, licking and crying. "It's so spicy!" he sobs. And there I am, begging him to stop eating it.

Oh, kids. They make me laugh. But I also see myself in the foolishness. For me, this election has felt like the equivalent of licking a fireball and sobbing. Anytime I watch the news or scroll Facebook, I'm left crying on the steps, wailing, "It's so spicy!" Then I go back for more.

Last weekend, we spent our Fall Break at the lake thanks to the generosity of some friends. It was hands down the most relaxing time our family has ever spent together. Books and cuddles on the porch. Swimming and learning to kayak. (Long live the South and your warm-enough-to-swim Octobers!) Headlamps and nighttime explorations. And an adult coloring book that soothed everyone from ages 3 to grown up.

I was reminded how much I need breathing room, especially in this ugly political season. And how intentional we must be sometimes to create that space in our busy, noisy day-to-day.

And when it comes to politics and all the hatefulness that has been expressed, I need to stop licking the fireball.

To be clear, I'm not advocating burying one's head in the sand. I value democracy, and I think we should seek to become informed voters. But I will admit that much of what I read on the Internet (or God forbid, the comments section) goes beyond what I need to know to vote. It's a slippery rabbit hole. And some of it was never intended to inform anyway.

Whatever is cluttering your mind and heart these days - whether the election or something else - consider ways you may be inviting that spicy burn over and over when you really don't need to. We cannot avoid our individual problems or our societal challenges, but we can acknowledge when we need space to disconnect from the constant bombarding of that which pains us.

And as far as the next month is concerned, may we be intentional about stepping back when we need to. May we guard our hearts and pay attention to what is flowing from them (Proverbs 4:23). And may we offer prayers - not for our political agendas to be achieved - but for how we may act and engage in a world that has revealed how much it is hurting.

17 Faces Anyone Who’s Tried To Learn Spanish Will Immediately Recognize

There's nothing quite so daunting or exhilarating than trying to learn a second language. You're never quite sure what you're saying. You could be on the mark or incredibly offensive. Of course, even if someone tries to let you know, you may not understand them!

I have put together some of my favorite GIFs detailing the emotional rollercoaster of speaking Spanish. It includes gems like this:

I'm also excited because I decided to publish my post on Buzzfeed, the mother ship for GIF-related posts. The way Buzzfeed works is you can post "community posts" and if they get enough traction, Buzzfeed will decide to feature it. 

So I'd love for you to check out the post on Buzzfeed and if you like it, please share it! Thanks so much!

A Life with Subtitles. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.