Monday, October 15, 2007

Culture Quiz

Over the summer, FOR SALE signs pop up in front of two houses directly across from yours. New families move into both houses within a few days of one another. Do you:

A) Peer at them from behind your net curtains, trying to figure out who they are but making no direct contact;
B) Wave politely when you both happen to be outside at the same time;
C) Knock on their doors, introduce yourself, give them a plate of muffins and welcome them to the neighborhood?

In spite of making deliberate efforts to adapt to the cultures I’ve lived among, there are times when my American-ness just won’t be denied. So yes, this week I followed option C. (In my experience, A is customary in England, and B is customary in Cyprus. In Kenya, on the other hand, my next-door neighbors invited me to their house for dinner night after night after night and ended up practically adopting me into their family! But that’s another post for another time.)

I’ve been the new neighbor more times than I can count, so I was really excited to finally be the established one. As soon as I saw the FOR SALE signs several months ago, I started to pray that God would allow us to develop relationships with these new families and that they would have the opportunity to see Jesus in and through us.

So one evening last week when I noticed lights on in both houses, I took a plate of muffins first to one house and then to the other. Both seemed pleased, if a bit surprised, and both said they would come for tea when things settle down a bit. My accent clearly announced my country of origin, so I hoped that if I came across as being too friendly (which could cause suspicion, the very opposite of what I wanted to accomplish) they would dismiss it as just a difference of culture.

Well. Yesterday afternoon the doorbell rang, which it rarely does here -- people do not usually drop by unannounced. I was practically beside myself to see Naghmeh standing there! She came in, met the kiddos and said how much she and her husband appreciated my coming by. They’re from Iran, she said, and that’s exactly what they were accustomed to -- neighbors being kind and helpful to one another. In the 15 years they’ve lived in greater London, she said the non-interaction of people living right next to each other has been really strange for them.

She gave me a box of traditional Iranian sweets called Honey Sohan -- reminds me of peanut brittle, except it’s softer and made with pistachios -- YUM! And she invited us to their housewarming party in a few weeks. Hooray! I can’t wait to see how this relationship will develop, how God will answer prayer.

1 comment:

Margaret in Minnesota said...

I came here via Lissa's blog. You are, from the sounds of this post, a lot like your friend back home. Which is to say, you're a great big American sweetie!

Good for you for making those families feel welcome like that. Even better that you did this act of kindness in the name of Jesus.

Blessings from the U.S.,