Feeling Comfortably Foreign

The other day I was watering my orchard. I had my rubber “farm boots” on, one of which has a small split in the sole. Pretty soon one foot was wet and the other wasn’t. Squish-step-squish-step, each foot kept me vertical, but with a different kind of sound.

I just got back from three days in Guadalajara, Mexico. Another priest friend and I went to the consecration of the Anglican Bishop of the Diocese of Western Mexico. I am completely comfortable in Latin America, I grew up there. Within our home we were Americans in most ways. Around us we shared the Latin American culture of Ecuador. Squish-step-squish-step, each foot keeps me vertical, but with a different kind of sound. My wife’s experience is similar. Raised in Africa, I took her to Ecuador early in our marriage and we spent a good number of years there. Yesterday we spent time just across the border with good friends, a Pentecostal pastor and his family. On the way home Karisse was quiet. I asked what was going on and she said, “It’s good to feel comfortable being foreign once more.” Squish-step-squish-step. Each step keeps us vertical, but with a different kind of sound. As people who were raised in expatriate families, the feeling is natural to us.

With the rising sense of diversity in our own society within these United States the sense of being foreign is everyone’s experience. Those who are new arrivals are foreigners, getting comfortable in a new situation. Those whose ancestors arrived here longer ago are finding that the newcomers can make them feel foreign in the land they consider their own. Like water in one’s boot, it’s easy not to like it, but I believe that it is vitally important that we all learn to feel comfortable feeling foreign. Squish-step-squish-step, each foot will keep us vertical, but with a different sound—the sound of the future.

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