Me . . . the Different One.

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eggI am the different one in Ecuador.  So my question is, “What does it feel like to live as a minority on a daily basis?”  Well, it feels a lot like these pictures.  Kind of adventurous, kind of lonely, and kind of awkward.

My intention in this post is not to throw a “pity party” for myself.  However, my intention is to communicate what it feels like living as a minority and for many of us to (hopefully) open our hearts to those we interact with on a daily basis, who are considered minorities.

After living in Ecuador for almost six months, I believe I can speak about what it feels like to be a minority.  Not only do I look different; I think, cartoonact, and speak differently too.  In a recent post about the things I love about Riobamba, I wrote about how sometimes I feel like a celebrity from the attention I get because I look different.  In parenthesis, I added that I have a love/hate relationship with this fact.  When I walk down the street, people often stare at me.  When I walk into a store, sometimes I am the one that a child stares at.  When I am out in public, I am often told at a later time that someone who knows me saw me in the street – because I am that recognizable.  As a result of my cultural upbringing, I often do things differently or expect other people to act differently.  As a teacher, I usually think and teach differently because I am have lived in a different culture for 95% of my life.  Sometimes these events are really funny and sometimes they are eye-opening for everyone involved, but sometimes they are uncomfortable and make me feel sad.  So I begin to ask myself the following questions:

  • Is it a disadvantage to be in the minority?  If so, why?
  • Can there be positive aspect about being a minority? If so, what?
  • Do some people thrive in the minority? If so, who? (I’d like to meet them!)

In the interest of keeping this post short, I will spare you with long, detailed stories.  However, if you’d like to hear more from me directly, just let me know via email.  Needless to say, my experience thus far has proven to be difficult.  But to take a different spin on things, maybe it does not have to be as difficult, or as negative, as I make it out to be.  Maybe I am thinking into things too much.  Or . . . maybe I am solely looking at things from my perspective and there is another way to view the situation.  And maybe, just maybe, there is as way I can use my “minority status” in a positive way to serve and love others.  After all, when I had an opportunity to teach English to indigenous children, my appearance definitely got their attention because I looked markedly different than everyone else in the school.  Plus, they might have even learned a little bit more as a result. (I sure hope so!)

When I return to the U.S. in July, I ask myself, “How will my temporary experience as a minority change my perspective about those who are living in cultures where they are in the minority – either temporarily or permanently?”  I wonder how my perspective will be different in two specific areas.  One area is with people originating from other countries or cultures, and another is with students in my classroom who are considered minorities.  Will I have a different sense of empathy for each individual?  Will I identify with them from a heart level, instead of just from my head?  Will I love them differently?

Ok . . . you knew it was coming, so here is your part. 🙂  Seriously though, I desire to hear your perspective and what you think about minorities in your culture.  Please write a comment and share your heart with me about any of the following questions.

  • How do you view and treat minorities in your life?
  • What can you do differently today to treat minorities differently?
  • Am I being too analytical and serious with my perspective of what it feels like to be a minority? (I tend to over-think things!)
  • How can I use my “minority status” to serve others in positive and loving ways?
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11 responses »

  1. I just finished shopping in a brand new Walmart and was one of the few white people doing so. I am 67 yrs. old, was born and raised in the South in a very southern family. My grandmother donated 6 acres of land to a private school so that little white children wouldn’t have to go to school with little black children. I always knew this was so wrong and I was always uncomfortable about this. We made a decision that impacted our children in a negative way because we refused to send them to this type of private school founded because of the desire for segregation. I went to a nursing school in Richmond, VA in 1963 and never touched a black patient until the mid 70’s. My life has been very white EXCEPT when my son married a woman with 2 children, one white and one black. Thank goodness my children had been raised to embrace all races so my son had no problem accepting this new child in his life. BUT to be honest, I still feel odd when I am the only one of my “color” and I find myself affected by the negative stereotypes of my childhood – I am surprised when I meet highly educated and well to do blacks – my experience was always with “field hands”. I hate that I am surprised and I wish I would stop it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I think you are over thinking this but at the same time, our Christian walk demands that we recognize all as potential brothers and sisters in Christ. You, particularly must see yourself as the woman that God is molding to meet the challenges that you will face when you get back home. I hope you will surround yourself with strong Christian folks who will support your continued growth – growth OUTWARD as well as inward – more out than in!!!! I would spend time in scripture and ask the Lord to show you “What is this experience teaching me and how can I use it in the States.” It is a gift to feel alone and different – think of Jesus in the wilderness – and on the cross – tough times, needless to say!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Will you be different when you get home? Will you treat those minority children any differently? I have no idea – I just hope you will be who you need to be and as a result those who come in contact with you will be touched.

    • Kathy . . . thank you for sharing your stories with me. I enjoyed learning more about you. It sounds like you have quite a history that you have learned a lot from. I am thankful that we both have had experiences that we can learn from, even if they are difficult at times. Thank you again for your continued support and encouragement. Take care.

  2. Hi Rachael. Well, you may be thinking too hard! Maybe people stare at you on the street because you are pretty! Or maybe they aren’t staring at you at all. I really try not to see skin color at all. I loved my parents, but they were a little on the racist side of the isle. I know you try to see the good in people and that is all that really matters. From reading your blogs, I realize that people are people. We all have the same basic needs, wants, desires. We all want to be treated well and loved. We may do things a little differently, but basically, we are the same. What a privilege to see the world from a different perspective! What a brave, lucky girl you are!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Kathy . . . when I read your comment I clearly realized how thankful I am that we met one another last summer in our Spanish class. You really are an amazingly sweet woman. I look forward to connecting again when I return to the U.S. Thank you for your thoughts and for your honesty about the blog post. I am glad that we are both able to learn from my Ecuador experience . . . that’s what it’s all about anyway, right? Have a wonderful weekend!

  3. Rachael, I love reading your blog! I’m sorry that the snowy weather here detained your chat with Pam’s class last week. I was hoping to stop in and say, “hi”. I am interested in your post because I often think about how others feel, especially if they are in the minority in a situation.How does one make them feel more comfortable? Do you ignore the differences and act as you normally would? That makes them feel ignored, I think. Do you make extra effort to include the person/s? That may make them feel uncomfortable. Sometimes it is just a matter of time for someone to feel comfortably accepted in a situation. I think it’s important to talk to the person, include them in conversation, ask them their perspective and note that it may be different because they are a minority. In any situation that I made an effort to include someone in a conversation, I know the person responded in a positive way – their body language became more relaxed and they smiled. Therefore, I think it’s important to try to make all people comfortable in any situation, whether they are a minority, a stranger, or an acquaintance.

    • Mary . . . you are so insightful! Just one of the many reasons I admire you! Thank you for sharing your questions about minorities and thinking a bit on this one. I’d welcome a conversation with you when I get back to the U.S. so we can ponder this a bit more together. Have a great rest of your week!

  4. Well, those are some good questions. Since becoming a part of Outreach and serving at Ms Lovie’s, UCity, and K-Life, my attitude towards minorities has changed. The biggest thing that has changed has been my stereotype of minorities. And my heart towards minorities and “people in general”. Probably too much to cover in a blog. But let me just say that it has caused me to ask the question, “Why not me? Why aren’t I the minority? Why has God blessed me in many areas of my life while there are others around me who seem to have much less? Those who live in poverty, in oppression, in fear, in need.” And yet strangely, some of the elderly black women that we serve (like Ms Lovie) seem to have the faith of the saints. Strange juxtaposition in life. That probably doesn’t answer your question, but those are some of my thoughts. 🙂

    • Thanks Rob . . . I love reading your thoughts. And, how cool that Outreach has changed your heart toward minorities. I LOVE that. And, just wait until you go to Guatemala . . . I am excited to hear your thoughts after that experience. I totally agree with you about wondering why I am in the majority in the U.S. and have been blessed with so much . . . sometimes I really struggle with that. And, I don’t have an answer to it . . . I just have to trust that God has a better idea of what is going on than I do . . . go figure. 🙂 Have a great night/day . . . talk to you soon!

  5. Hi Rachael! I missed chatting to you while “visiting” with Mrs. LeSeure’s class, but I was in the background lucky to see your patient happy face while those kiddos asked some interesting qs 🙂 So neat you can skype with familiar faces – love technology. Now as to the question of being a “minority” – I feel I can speak to that in volumes for with two-fold reasoning:
    1. Not being originally from the midwest (having grown up in Seattle/Pacific NW).

    2. Also being Korean-American, as the asian population in STL is predominantly Chinese. There is a cultural difference there as well, which makes me at times feel quite alone in a sense because I am viewed or spoken to as with the assumption I am just “asian” when my Korean heritage is very important to me.

    My view has always been from a point of knowing what it’s like to be seen as “different”, therefore, I try to honor others backgrounds, as well as find common ground. With your new experiences being so unique – I would take that as an opportunity to show who you are and to help with the fact that there will be some who might already have their reservations or definition of who you might be just by your appearance. For myself, I always try to act with a kind heart and a smile – something I KNOW you always demonstrate! We just visited India over Christmas break, and just as I was settling into my little life here, I was thrust back to the constant staring and being an outsider. Ah, life just keeps things interesting 🙂 *Side note – Missing you at Robinson and want to finally take you to yoga with me when you’re back.

    • Leah! It is so great to hear from you my friend! Thanks for your post. I just wrote to Mary Meihaus about wanting to talk with her more when I get back to the U.S. and that undoubtedly goes for you too! Deal? Thank you for sharing your position on feeling like a minority and how you approach that on a daily basis. I bet I can learn a lot from you! And . . . thanks for your note about missing me . . . I definitely miss you too. And, where were you when I Skyped? I didn’t see you for some reason . . . bummer. 😦 Maybe next time! Speaking of which, talk to Jen Bearden about when we are Skyping on Thursday, and maybe you will be available! I hope so! Hope to see you soon Leah! Love Rachael

  6. Racheal, Rachael, Rachael… That’s one of the reasons we both get along so well… we tend to think a lot :D…
    Speaking of minorities… I just realized that I’m in a minority around here too… 😉 no one except my hubby really speaks Spanish 😉 Some people here have asked me if I’m from Philippines… hehe… I think I do look very different. I thought they were going to think I was a native 😉
    But guess what, I think I have always been in the minority (even in my country).. or at least most of the time… and I like it! 🙂 I know I’m weird (I’m sure many people would agree too) hehe…. For some reason, most of the time I have done things differently… but I have learned to laugh about it too… is actually fun! I like it! And it provides so many opportunities to show God’s love! I have learn that in the end is up to you on how you are going to use it… if as a barrier or as a bridge… and many times is our attitude which will influence us to determine how to use it…
    Now when you don`t understand something in Spanish just ask or giggle :0) (it has worked for me in English 😉 I`m sure you are not around mean people. Remember when you were trying to communicate to my parents? They enjoyed it a lot! and I`m sure you did too :D…
    Love you girl! Take care!

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