Thursday, February 10, 2011

Cultural Silence

As I mentioned in my last post, I have learned who my Congolese sister is. I'm not sure what all I am allowed to share publicly so I'll just refer to her by her first initial here - C. I have very limited information about C at this point, but I do know she is a mother to 8 children and she is a widow. I have written her a letter although I know it may be days before she sees it if she is from a more remote village. The cool thing is that I got to write my letter via email, so it has already arrived where it needs to be! It will be translated and given to C - someone will read it to her if she cannot read. In Lisa Shannon's book, she described how so many of the women treasure any letters sent by their sponsor. I really hope she is able to write back!

In many senses, I really wasn't sure what to say to C. I mean, what do you say to a lady you've not met, who lives in a war torn country, has 8 kids and a husband who likely died in a violent manner? What do you say?

 We live in a culture that doesn't know how to respond when things get ugly. We don't often know what to say when someone dies, is ill or is dealing with an otherwise tragic situation.

 I will be the first to admit, I never knew the best way to respond when someone was dealing with something crushing - many times I still don't, but I have learned that keeping silent can be worse.

 When my oldest son was 1, my husband was diagnosed with a terminal illness and for a time, we thought we were going to lose him in the near immediate future. I was crushed, trying to keep things going for my son while trying to plan for the future - not certain if my husband would get to be a part of it. We needed the love & support from family & friends around us. I learned it was okay (to certain people) to admit I was not okay when asked (other people, you quickly learn) don't want to really hear that you're having a bad day. They get quite uncomfortable if your brave front slips even just a bit.

 The most frustrating, I found, was when I would visit the church I had grown up attending. Peers I had known my whole life suddenly were avoiding me. One actually said to me "Well, we all have our issues". So while I generally say silence is worse, there ARE wrong things to say. Another one is "You must not be praying correctly - there must be some sin in your life". In those cases, silence might have been better, but generally, even if someone didn't know exactly what to say, the fact that they would talk to me and acknowledge my hurt and my fear was huge. I appreciated their effort and felt their care - even if their words were awkward & unsure.

I know I don't want to just be a supporter from far away. Someone sending money for C, but nothing else. So, I wrote the letter. I told her my name and where I live. I told her it is cold here and that there is snow on the ground. I told her I have been learning about her country and that what I have been learning makes me sad. I told her I will be telling other people about what is going on in her country and I hoped that perhaps some of them will want to help too. I asked about her children and told her I have 3. I told her I am very pleased to be able to be her sister and I am glad to know her.

 I felt a bit dumb, but I reminded myself that silence often speaks louder and I want her to know I care.

1 comment:

  1. Wow Kim
    I remember those times when G. was sick and remember our concern for your family at that time. For one reason or another I did not know your experience both of G.'s illness and the reception, or lack thereof, that you got from friends and our mutual church family.

    A part of me is curious about how you remember these events - i.e. as things that have happened or still impacted by the lack of support. I would understand being angry or at least questioning. Perhaps other experiences since that dark time and the way the LORD ministers to our hearts has helped you. Nevertheless thank you for inviting me to read such a thoughtful blog!