Cultural Re-entry and Whole Foods

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Cross Cultural

The day after I arrived in the US from nearly a month in Tanzania, I was helping my 3-year-old twin granddaughters brush their teeth before bed.  My daughter said, “Wait a minute, let me get my phone, they use an app.”  Sure enough, the little darlings get to choose a colorful character to brush their teeth along with accompanied by catchy music and a timer.  This is not really shocking, it is fun, right?  But a few days ago I was teaching young children how to make a toothbrush out of a small stick.  This was not news to the children, they said (in Swahili), “Of course!”

Stick toothbrush

Whole Foods

The next day we went to Whole Foods to get a few things for dinner. I have been to Whole Foods before, but not after recently experiencing the chaos and challenge of an African market.

At Whole Foods, I was dazzled by the variety of food, products, and people. Not only are there multiple choices for every item, there is a diversity of humankind at this store in Brooklyn, NY that had me staring.  I realized the only diversity in our African town was provided by me and some of my co-workers. Otherwise, everyone looked much the same, and completely opposite from us.

Whole Foods 1

As I followed my daughter around the store, one of the twins in my cart, I thought, “Heaven will be like this, with every tribe and every nation.”  Really even right down to the abundance and variety of foods and other products, because I believe Heaven will be a place of plenty, minus the Whole Foods prices.

When you travel back and forth between worlds, there has to be a period of cognitive dissonance as you assimilate all the realities. The struggle for me is to make it less of a judgment and more just internally incorporating the differences that co-exist in time and space. My life in Africa was such a contrast that I find myself looking at my U.S. life as one of self-indulgent uselessness. Yesterday I went to Target and Starbucks, both bastions of Western life. Is that wrong?

I need to live responsibly and with contentment wherever I am, rather in plenty or in want.  But I don’t want to lose the tension of the struggle. I have been given the privilege of experiencing some of the complexity that is life on Earth.  I want to treasure those times and let them make me richer in love and more compassionate.

While I’m drinking Starbucks.

The Author

Imperfect follower of Jesus, wife to the greatest guy in the world, Mom to five wonderful grown children, and happy Nana to their ten littles. Having grown up in the Deep South, I retain a love for all things Southern. I became an amateur cultural anthropologist during a significant time living in SE Asia and still get to travel the world on mission and for fun with my sweetheart. I love asking questions, cooking for my family, helping women breastfeed, walking in the woods, eating biscuits, and having deep conversations about things that matter. On my wishlist are reading more, playing the piano, painting watercolor scenes, figuring out my awesome camera, and writing to soothe my soul.

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