Friday, June 21, 2019

Politely Correct

Nhanh in her classroom setting!
Nhanh is now  married! This is from January 25, 2015!!
Over the past weeks, I have had several interactions with Yanping, a awesomely wonderful young woman in our Chinese congregation. Yanping translates our sermons into headsets for those who don't speak the language. Sometimes, the language is English and sometimes, it's Chinese depending on the speaker. She has told me as others have that it's easier to translate Chinese into English than vice versa although I have no clue why that is true. I told Yanping my favorite all-time translator is Shimin, one of our Chinese brothers. We  have been working together for about ten years and he understands my cadence. It also helps he has lived in the US a long time and is comfortable with slang, something my international students struggle with. Here's the thing- if Shimin messes up, I'd never know. Yanping is so conscientious- she sees it as her spiritual responsibility to never make a mistake. I assured her that in our group, it would be between her and the Lord. She's just one of those lights on the hill Jesus spoke of in the Sermon on the Mount.

That brings me back to last Thursday. I did a presentation in our middle school chapel about my mission this last summer in Vietnam. I invited all of our high school students from Vietnam to come as well and I was honored that all of them accepted the invitation. Afterwards, I said to one of the Vietnamese young ladies in my class, Han, Cảm ơn, or Thank You! She laughed and told me, "Coach, you just told me to shut up!"
Oh well, I'm trying!

This brings me to Nhanh. One of the Godly sisters in the Can Tho church, she has taught me much about teaching and compassion and hard work: she's terrific! Two of my favorite stories from this past trip only came about because of her intervention with extremely poor kids. Nhanh wants desperately to learn English and the Bible better so she can tell others about the Lord Jesus. but, that doesn't mean we don't have disagreements! This past summer, Nhanh was storing some of her things in the room where I slept in the makeshift church building. One night, she came in, needing to retrieve something. As we talked, I asked her if she minded if I turned the air conditioner on. Nhanh responded that I should not ask, I should just do it. If I ask, she argued, it puts the pressure on her! My reply was that my parents told me to always ask permission.  That led into a discussion of politeness. She told me I say thank you way too much, that I say it when not warranted or expected. I replied that my parents again taught me to say thank you for everything and so I do. I then countered by saying our church group doesn't say thank-you to waitresses when we eat pho' for breakfast at the cafe. Nhanh says she/they do. They just use a smile or some other form of body language or gestures to show their appreciation. I learned quite a bit from our talk, mainly that I'm not as Vietnamese as I think I am!

If you had to choose between Nhanh and me on the philosophy of politeness, which side would you come down on? My belief is that we are both right- it just depends where you are. In the US, it's called home field advantage or when in Rome, do as the Romans do. Every culture is different in a variety of customs and gratitude falls into that context.  I really like that the term used when Jesus prayed for the loaves/fishes in both the miracle feedings is giving thanks. Expressing gratefulness is so Biblical and Christ-like. It might be a nod of the head or eye contact in Asia or taking the time to drop a note in America but it sends the message that someone noticed. And I'm pretty sure God did, too. Thanks for reading tonight! Cảm ơn bạn đã đọc tối nay!

Applicable quote of the day:
In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

God bless,
Luke 18:1
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