Last night, I met the most fascinating gal from Kenya. She relocated from there to Colfax, Wisconsin (of all places!) and came to visit SAMmy's, the mom's ministry group that I lead. She and I had connected online prior to our first meeting last night. It's so interesting how simple email contact fails to give one much insight into the outer person at all. Jo showed up in her mini-van which is what I might have expected had I given it any thought at all. However, I smiled at myself when I say the dark turbanned face behind the wheel. Even through the glare on the windshield, I could see her bright toothy grin which revealed a large gap in the center (a missing tooth or just a large gap? I can't say). She wore large black ethnic (bone?) hoops in her ears, and when she hopped out of the vehicle, I saw that she was dressed in an ankle-length African caftan with elaborate needlework about the neckline. She was a vision, this African princess in the midwestern mommy mini-van. We openly embraced - and I was in love. :-)
I look forward to getting to know Jo more, but I will share a couple of things that she shared with the SAMmy's gals last night that were of interest to me. First, she shared that her father had passed away when she was just 5-years-old which resulted, of course, in her mother being a single mommy. In her culture, this was frowned upon and they were treated as community outcasts - so she and her siblings were one another's only friends growing up (she misses her sister greatly). However, in their community, discipline was considered a community responsibility, so adults freely reprimanded even those children which were not their own. This worked, in large part, because in spite of differences in spiritual beliefs (her own mother was a very devout Christian), the wisdom and ethics of the community as a whole were in harmony. I love this whole (as Hilary says) "it takes a village to raise a child" take on life.
As I reflect on this, I am reminded of an occasion in which I reprimanded my neighbor boys. First, I must say this, my neighbor boys are impeccably polite to their elders. I am ALWAYS "Mrs. Riedmann" - NEVER "Kris Ann". They ALWAYS say "thank you" and "please" and "may I". They are model children in their interactions with adults in EVERY possible way. However, one day, I saw and overheard them being unkind to one neighborhood child (okay, so it was MY neighborhood child - ugh!) and I gently (yes, really I was) dished out the Golden Rule ("treat others as you'd have them treat you"). But THEN, I thought - okay, now what? Are their parents going to feel I was out of line for reprimanding THEIR children? Should I have said nothing? Should I have had a parental pow-wow with the boys' folks? Was I out of line? Soooo - I called them, and confessed that I'd just gently reprimanded their sons - and, (whew!) - they said, "That's great! We've reprimanded other neighbor kids ourselves. If they tell us that Mrs. Riedmann yelled at them, we'll trust that they deserved it." How cool is that?! Props to my good neighbors. I am fully confident that not ALL folks would have received my "village" approach so warmly.
One final note on Jo. (This is hilarious!) She shared a bit about the reactions she gets as a Kenyan native here in predominantly white, mainstream USA. She said that at school, her kids get mixed reactions - to the positive, they proudly respond, "I am an American!" and to the negative, they defiantly respond, "Ach! I'm Kenyan anyway!" Okay - here's the funny part. Jo said that a year after she had moved here, a gal was visiting with her and said in amazement, "Wow, you've really learned how to dress yourself quickly!" Jo looked at her, confused, "What do you mean?" The gal said, "Oh ... well, I mean - you don't wear clothes in Africa ... right?" Oh my goodness! What in the world? I guess this gal has seen too many "National Geographics"?
Anyway - Jo, I love you!!!