I learned my first Chinese phrases from my daughter, Alana, when she was 4 years old. Nay ho mah? Qua huan how sheh sheh. How are you? I am very well, thank you! She was taught this greeting and response after an impromptu Cantonese lesson from her friend on the swings during recess. Growing up in Cambodia from the age of 5 months until she was 14, she was the epitome of a TCK (Third Culture Kid).
In their book, “The Third Culture Kid Experience: Growing Up Among Worlds,” David C. Pollock and Ruth Van Reken share this definition. “A Third Culture Kid (TCK) is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents’ culture. The TCK builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture are assimilated into the TCK’s life experience, a sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background.”
What I love about my 3 TCKs is that they grew up in a world surrounded by families from over 40 different countries. Many of the countries were Asian. So, a huge part of my children’s worldview was shaped and formed within a decidedly Asian context.
They have never needed lessons in tolerance, because demonstrating acceptance was a part of their DNA. Far from being colorblind proponents, they could not wait to experience the vibrancy of all the cultural nuances and traditions of new friends and relationships. There was almost an urgency to welcoming the new student in town. Because they, too, had once been the new student in town. But, more importantly, it was somehow personally rewarding to hear the other person’s story. It was as if their story was somehow wrapped up in their own. As if they couldn’t fully relax until they knew their neighbor. There was an intrinsic need to know them. An authentic curiosity about their language, traditions, religion, food, music, etc.
So now, I’m grieving with my family of TCKs for you, my Asian American family. Knowing the answer to the question “How are you?” is not “Very well, thank you.” It’s in deep mourning. Beyond fatigue. Numb. Angry. Fearful. Anxious. Impatient for justice. This past year of violence and indignities against your community has broken my heart. All were fueled by the vitriolic coronavirus rhetoric from the last president. Over 3,800 hate related incidences were reported by the not-for-profit coalition “Stop AAPI Hate” over the last year. Likely a countless number of unreported cases. Because people don’t know you. Have not felt an urgency to see your story as strongly resembling theirs. Have not become acquainted with you or your history in the U.S. Have no idea how deep the wounds are seeing your revered elderly family members brutally and violently dishonored. Even at times with deadly force. Instead, non-engagement and white supremacy has allowed racism, misogyny, Hollywood hypersexualized versions of you to be perpetuated. Tossing your humanity around as either a model minority to be exploited or the latest villain to be terrorized. You deserve better. Every part of your story matters. Your Asian Lives Matter.
The Korean word for “thank you” is “Kamsahamnida.” I am thankful and grateful that my TCKs understand that loving your neighbor is actually for their own good. That knowing and loving your neighbor makes you a better person. Makes you better acquainted with a world full of people created in the image of God. Introducing you to a world outside yourself that speaks a heart language that God wants you to know. That makes you better acquainted with God.
#StopAAPIHate #StopAsianHate #LoveYourNeighbor #TCKsRock
Being born in Georgia meant that I learned as a child to fear some things in order to survive. In addition to fond memories, my childhood also included superstitions.
Visiting Florida last week, where I attended a small Christian college, brought back many beautiful memories of incredible friendships. But, it also reminded me that when my faith journey began at the age of 22, I also brought fear along for the ride. In addition to learning to love Jesus, the Bible, studying Hebrew and Greek, I also became fluent in superstitions and conspiracy theories about other Christians, politics, other religions and even those within my own Black community.
Grace was extended, but there were limits as to who was worthy. Especially in politics. The worst thing you could be called was a liberal. Liberals deserved Karma not Grace! So of course I became a Black Republican.
I also became the Black friend who was proof that no one was racist. Even though I walked out of chapel during a visiting singing group’s tone deaf portrayal of “Black music”, by my silence and immature faith, I endorsed and held the same kind of thinking. Until I moved to Cambodia.
One of the many paradigm shifts that occurred during my 14 years in Cambodia was after reading “What’s So Amazing About Grace?” by Phillip Yancey. It was a part of my journey to cease maintaining debilitating fears, superstitions and conspiracy theories about God. About who He was and how He saw me and the world around me. The Amazing Grace that had taught my heart to fear in a beautiful reverent way, had to deal with the same heart to unlearn a punitive fear from a wrath filled God that was keeping score. Especially if I didn’t believe a specific set of traditions. Believe specific doctrines about faith, the role of women in the church and many other areas.
Living in a war torn country, having an Australian pastor who challenged me to examine what the Bible and the Gospel of Jesus had to say about the poor, injustice, women, the marginalized and seeing the Imago Dei (the image of God) in others was a complete game changer.
In the 10 years since returning from Cambodia, I’ve seen fear, superstitions and conspiracy theories continuing to flourish in Christian communities. Conspiracy theories about Barack Obama’s birth, Superstitions about the Black community, Refugees, immigrants, Mexicans, Muslims, etc. And an overwhelming Fear of losing power.
My daughter asked me the other day, “How do you remain friends with Christians who continue to say these kind of things about Black people?” They don’t care about you! I answered by hemming and hawing with thoughts like, loyalty? Nostalgia? The “Friends” song by Michael W. Smith? Grace?
She’s right and the two pastors I spoke with in the office last week are also right.
What would I say to myself as my counselor?
– You’ve already walked away from unhealthy fears, superstitions and conspiracy theories about God, yourself and the world. You know decent people from every political persuasion.
I would say remaining in these spaces has nothing to do with showing Grace to others. It actually says more about how I allow others to treat me and the communities that I love.
It’s about healthy friendships. It’s about self-care. It’s about the dignity that I was taught being born in Georgia. By a family who said Grace. Whose strength was a measure of the goodness of God’s Grace.
Maya Angelou said “When you know better, you do better.”
I know Grace better. It’s about the unrelenting love of God. It’s about how we are to treat others AND ourselves. And it’s Amazing!
Mourning the loss of 49 Muslim lives that God fearfully and wonderfully made is a prayer answered by how we treat our neighbors. The immigrant. The refugee. The marginalized.
Mourning is an action that welcomes. It shows compassion. It shows up. It refuses to allow love to become a stranger to the Stranger.
Refuses to become indifferent or passively complicit to the domestic terrorism of white supremacists.
Mourning with those who mourn is demonstrated by doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Legislating unto others as you would have them legislate unto you.
Looking into the grieving eyes of our Muslim neighbors and seeing our family. Seeing our tears. Seeing a community loved by God.