Thursday, December 26, 2013

Mixed Message

One thing I like about FACEBOOK is to be able to reconnect with former students. This entry, from 12-18-06, is about one of those not-quite-as young-anymore kids.
 College semesters end before high school terms so our alumni began filing in last Friday. Many of our ex-students make it a point to come by when they are home for whatever vacation is on the calendar. Michael and Amy, Patrick and Scott, Jonathan and Shanna: I spent a little time with each of them Friday. And then there was Patricia. Several years past graduation, Patricia made sure she completed her annual pilgrimage to the halls of Westbury Christian School. Originally from Honduras, Patricia and her sister, Paola, were bright lights in my Bible classes over the past five years. Some students leave you with glowing feelings and some just aren't around anymore. Sometimes you struggle to recall much interaction but sometimes you can recite incidents word-for-word. Those become classroom stories.

I was standing outside the business office one afternoon when Patricia was a junior. I couldn't help but overhear Patricia speaking to her mother over the school phone in Spanish. Although I am not bilingual, I could tell it wasn't going well. Suddenly, Patricia switched from Espanol to English and seemed to shift into a higher gear. I was intrigued so I waited until the conversation was over. Curious, I asked Patricia why the change from her native tongue to her secondary language in the middle of the mother-daughter dialogue. She giggled and explained.
"When I get mad at my mom, I start speaking in English because she can't keep up with me!"
We have a number of students at WCS whose English skills are far superior to their parents' and when I use the illustration of Patricia, I get some knowing nods and grins. In the ongoing push and pull between folks and kids, sometimes the younger generation has a secret weapon: fluency. In any culture, the offspring always angles for the tiniest advantage over Mom and Pop. What the child can understand perfectly, an adult may lack sufficient skills to interpret. Jesus commented that the comprehension of parables fell into the same category. While these short stories seem often simple and direct to our twenty-first century ears, Jesus said bluntly that some hearers would never understand. The Savior even went one step further and explained in Matthew 13 that was the reason his teaching took parable form, so some would get it and some would not. I take it he meant they could have understood but they opted not to make the effort. Believers have a fluency in understanding the teachings of the Lord that non-believers lack. Which brings us back to Patricia. I reminded her of that story Friday and she laughed. She also told me that ruse is getting increasingly hard to pull off; her mother's English has improved dramatically. Take heart, parents; there is hope!

Applicable quote of the day:
"When you grow up in a family of languages, you develop a kind of casual fluency, so that languages, though differently colored, all seem transparent to experience."
David Antin

God bless,
Luke 18:1
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