I 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, act, 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?