To state the obvious, there are so many differences between our worlds.
While we’re stateside, we spend day after day observing the differences: we sleep on oh-so-soft beds and freeze in oh-so-cold houses. We browse Target for hours and, well, just marvel at new candle scents and intriguing new technologies and odd styles and olives in a to-go cup.
We notice that our feet don’t fit in closed-toed shoes anymore and how fast everyone drives here.
We are late, again. Except now people care.
The differences are endless: big and small, significant and insignificant. Sometimes we discover a difference that makes us feel like we have found a new home; like we’re suddenly foreigners here. Other times it feels like we re-discovered that amazing old sweatshirt that is just the essence of your childhood: they fit deeply.
What really strikes me is how slowly some things come on you. I didn’t adjust to the heat overnight, and if you asked me during hot season in Mae Sot, I would strongly argue that I have not adjusted and it still feels like fire. But then I return here and find myself shivering and layering and looking at a thermostat that reads 72. I suddenly realize that we there is a difference; and we are different. The change just came slowly.
On Sunday, I went to a baby shower for a sweet friend of mine. She sent the invitation and a little note that said she knew I wouldn’t be able to make it, but she wanted me to know I was invited. I was able to share the good news that we were in fact stateside and I would be more than happy to celebrate her little girl!
It was here that I noticed a difference that had crept on slowly. I watched a room full of girls, so many of them pregnant! I watched her open package after package of beautiful little clothes, hangers, diapers, bottles, and baby lotions. I talked with my friend beside me, also pregnant, as she anticipates two showers this month for her little boy.
Being who I am–regretfully cheap–I first thought about the money that goes into a baby, and specifically the money we had collectively spent on showering this little girl with love.
I’m going to be honest about this, I questioned if we needed it. Do we need all the clothes and bows?
But I realized that this was money spent on celebrating the life of a new little girl–the marriage of a beautiful couple, the birth of their new family, and the hope that this little baby brings.
I thought of all the girls in this room that would have their own baby showers, in addition to all the wedding showers we each had. I thought of all the gifts my mom sends, and her stash of wrapping paper and cards ready to shower blessings on her friends and my friends and her friends’ children. These were all celebrations of life: parties and gifts and traditions to celebrate the life God has given us.
Then I thought of an email I received from my Dad a few days ago, telling me that a friends’ father had passed away, and I might want to send a sympathy card.
Honestly, this is a cultural practice I haven’t really practiced much, partially for my age and partially in being out of the country. But this, too, is a way to celebrate life.
All of these things pointed me to the same celebration and valuation of life. I think it’s actually an integral part of American culture.
I suppose many will disagree, and I know there are arguments. I do think of the aborted babies, and the protection of abortion by law. I do think of the growing trafficking issue around the world, even the growing existence of porn, and the devaluing of life that involves.
However, while I do hope to recognize how we could value life more, I also want to note the value that life has already been given in our culture. There is a difference; I might not even be able to pinpoint it or describe it. But I see it; I see how my perspective has changed.
I stood in a room surrounded by so many women and saw a really beautiful culture of celebrating life. It felt foreign, but it felt God-honoring. It felt like we were remembering and worshipping Him who gives life.
Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground
and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life,
and the man became a living creature.