What is it like to be a
stranger? I'd like you to think about a group you're part of fairly
regularly, a group in which you are different in some way from most of
the other people. Maybe you're the only woman on a planning team at
work, the only girl in a woodworking class, the only boy taking
ballet, or the only man learning to quilt. Maybe when all the
relatives get together, you're the oldest one in the room. Maybe
you're the only white person in the group you're thinking of, or the
only person of color. Maybe you're the only one in the group who uses
a wheelchair or who is visually impaired.
Have you thought of a group where you can say, "I'm the only one"? Now,
what's it like?
Several years ago I went to Liberia as part of an assessment team for The United
Methodist Church. UMCOR sent us there to see how the church might respond to the
tremendous humanitarian need after the civil war. As we visited some of the
centers that had been set up for those who had been displaced from their homes
and villages, we noticed people staring at us. These were schools, unfinished
buildings and camps with grass huts where literally thousands of people lived.
As we walked through the children ran after us. Finally someone said many of
these children had never seen a white person. They shouted, "Take a picture of
me, white man." They wanted to pose with us for pictures. They wanted us to
squat down so they could feel our hair because it was not as curly or as course
as their own. In that setting I understood the feeling of being a stranger,
different from everyone else in my surroundings.
What was it like for our team to be so different from almost everyone else
there? I was lonely. If it hadn't been for the others on our team and the few
people there that I knew through other associations, it might have been
unnerving. When the people spoke in their tribal languages - as many of them did
when speaking to one another - I couldn't understand what they were saying.
Regardless of the friendliness of the people, we were strangers in the land,
strangers in a different culture...
Subscribers: click here for the full