Last night was our last night of our most recent Bible study. I’m glad I stuck it out because it was really good for me. It took me out of my comfort zone, and I learned more about myself, and dealing with others, especially here in the south. The ladies at my table were very nice ladies, but several of them talked…a lot. Sometimes they talked while a speaker was talking, and I have a hard time with that. Because of my experiences with speaking a second language and loving many people who speak English as a second language, I understand how difficult it is to pay attention and fully grasp what someone is saying, especially if the conversation is coming in a non-native language. And we had two non-native English speakers at our table: my daughter-in-love from Brazil and the pastor’s daughter-in-love from Thailand. Both of these great women speak very good English. But, for those who don’t speak another language, there isn’t an understanding that someone who can speak English well may not understand as well as she speaks, so realizing that another may need silence just to understand isn’t even on their radars.
I can’t really be mad at them for not having a wider view of others if they haven’t been exposed to the special considerations needed; however, I do get a little indignant that Americans can be so narrowly focused. I want to teach them everything I know about helping others understand. I want them to have instincts about what is considerate for a non-native speaker. But what I want in this circumstance isn’t voiced, mostly because it will only make things worse, and then others will be distracted as well. So I let it go.
While the women at my table were lovely, and I was so happy to get to know them a bit, I will keep trying various study groups because I want to find some southerners who don’t fit the mold I’ve experienced for the 13 years I’ve been here. I know they’re here, those mold-breakers. Because not everyone fits in a stereotype and while there can be generalizations, those broad strokes cannot and will not fit everyone.
DAY 130 HOMEWORK: Listen to something in another language. Imagine that you can pick up a word or two, or can say some common phrases. If you can say something in the language to which you’re listening, try speaking and listening at the same time. Like a toddler who knows what you’re saying long before they can respond, it takes a long time for most people to process the understanding phase before they can speak much. And even those who speak much may not understand everything. Be patient, and be kind.