I often have to remind myself that my life isn’t a one man mission to rid the world of American stereotypes.
There are many, I realize this. And many of them are deserved.
“Wow you’re skinner than I expected!”
“You’re a lot nicer than I thought Americans were!”
“Do you need a fork?”
“커피 주세요. 네. 감사합니다.” (iced coffee please. yes. thank you.) “Wow you can speak Korean!” (For the record that hardly constitutes being able to speak Korean.)
I was actually writing a whole post about these stereotypes but there was something about it that was unsettling me. And after reading through it a few times I realized why.
It was basically just me complaining the whole time. Which is arguably the most hypocritical thing I could have done relating to this topic.
Anyway it got me thinking.
There’s a verse in The Bible that says, “What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8.
I can not think of a more perfect way to approach life, travel, and specifically the idea of stereotypes abroad.
Walk humbly, because you don’t know this language. Walk humbly because this is not your country or your culture or your traditions. Do not assume that you understand something, or that you are entitled to an experience.
Walk humbly because it will let you see things you never expected to; beautiful, bizarre, and difficult things. Because it protects you from being blinded by your own preconceptions.
Walk humbly because it is good for you. It teaches you that you are not the most important thing in this world, that your culture is not all that there is, and that your language does not allow you to communicate with everyone in the world.
In my original post I was talking about how I often feel like I have to prove to everyone that I’m not this big, loud, insensitive, American. But I think that anytime I make an effort to prove something I’m essentially undermining myself. I should be able to disprove those things just by being who I am.
I shouldn’t be offended when someone offers me a fork because I’m white. I shouldn’t be defensive when someone thinks that I must love partying. I shouldn’t be hurt when the first thing a taxi driver in Peru says to me is, “so do you like Donald Trump?” I should be thankful. Thankful that I have the opportunity to be an example of something different.
I am very proud of my country. The more I see of the world the more thankful I am to be an American. I am proud of the beliefs that I hold tightly to, and the worldview that I have developed. But they don’t make me better, or smarter, or kinder, or wiser than anyone else. They just make me, me.
Walking humbly allows you to show the world the reality of your own culture while fully experiencing someone else’s. It’s not easy, and this post was born of the fact that I am not good at it all the time.
But I want to be. And so if I can try to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with my God as I go through life, I think that’s a pretty good place to start.
Thanks for reading!