Being Brown

I live in between two worlds.  Nothing depicted it clearer than my drive to work last week.  This image struck me so hard I haven’t been able to shake it.

I turned into the affluent neighborhood behind our church, and to my left, a man and a woman, in their handsome athletic summer garb, jogged side by side.  To my right, (swallow hard) a man and a woman wearing long sleeves, worn straw sun hats and gardening gloves moved slowly along a yard’s edge with weedeaters.  Can you guess who was hispanic?

These two couples may have been standing only 20 feet apart, but in reality, they were worlds apart.  And somewhere in between them, in an awkward uncomfortable place, there I exist… somehow trying to reconcile the two worlds.  Even as I write this, there is a pain in my chest- the same pain I feel when I walk into a room and I’m the only brown person.  The same pain I feel when I’m standing in between two language non-speakers and I’m trying to interact with them the same way without letting the other feel excluded.  I hate when people feel excluded.. especially due to skin difference, language, accent, dialect or culture.

To my left- I see a nation I love, where I was born, where I went to school.  I see the skin color of my best friends.  My best friends are white.  Granted, all of my best friends have spent significant amounts of time living in other countries- anyone who’s been an expatriate is a different breed.  To my left, I see my beloved coworkers, and ministers, and missionaries that have taught me and discipled me and encouraged me in all kinds of ways!

To my right- I see my own brown skin.  I hear my own language.  I see my dark hair.  (Here come the tears.)  I see my mom.  I see my dad.  I see my uncle.  My aunt.  My grandparents.  I see a generation that worked their hearts out under the desert sun so that I could have air conditioning and a afford nice cars.

Actually, come into my world for a moment.  Every time I drive by workers on the street, I catch a glimpse of them – not their orange vests – but their grey hair.  Their wrinkled sweaty brows.  Their dark eyes.  Have you ever made eye contact with one of them?  It’s tempting to think how inconvenient they are, with their cones and their trucks.  But when I see them, I think of who they’re working for – the kids at home.  Their wives.  Every time I drive past them, I get a glimpse into their world.

Now, come back.  I’m watching USA play El Salvador in the CONCACAF quarter finals as I write this.  That’s what started this.  Honestly, there’s no point to this long post (sorry) besides welcoming you into my world.  Into many of our worlds- those of us that live in the “in between”.  It’s a strange place to be in, but I’m learning.  In every direction, I’m learning.

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