You look at the table during snack time at the many different snacks all around you. Your mom of course packed you your favorite crustacean flavored chips. As each of the snacks are taken out, goldfish crackers, fruit by the foot, and a wide assortment of treats from their family. Not you though, you remember and see that your snack is not exactly like everyone else’s. To your left you look at Philips potato chips, dotted with small specks of onion and sour cream. I guess those are kind of like your snack with a different flavor and shape. You look over at Nancy’s goldfish crackers. Hmm, you ponder and say I wonder if they taste like fish at all? In front of you are your favorite shrimp flavored chips, that are shaped like a tube with little ridges in them.
As you eat your snack, you notice something strange happening around you. All your classmates around you are busily making business transactions, you start noticing the currency being offered and robust exchanges being transacted for Reece’s pieces or for bite- sized cookies. And though you may not understand why, no one seems to be interested in trying your snack. Though it is not for lack of trying to offer it to your friends around you. You figure it must be in the way you are describing your favorite snack and that people would just try it if you did some better explaining.
After a few days of trying, it seems to you that people just must not like your snack very much. In wanting to partake in the snack based economy, you ask your mom to stop buying your favorite snack, and instead get something called gushers, which don’t sound particularly enjoyable, I mean who would want their snack time snack to gush?
In this small example, I share a story about fitting in and wanting to be like other people. In many minority cultures you get to experience a moment where what you bring is something different than your peers. Columbia University Sociologist, Milton Gordan, shared about assimilation through the acronym, ABC, Assimilated, Bicultural and uni-Cultural. Assimilated being taking on the culture, values, attitude and behavior of the majority culture. Bicultural being straddling both your home culture and the majority culture. I often refer to this one as being a bridge builder. Uni-cultural is to be at home and at peace with being different from the majority culture and not wanting or willing to adopt any part of the majority culture.
There is no perfect way to handle the complex question of assimilation. All could reflect aspects of God’s character. I will however share that the aspect of God that I strive to reflect upon is a God of bridge building and helping bridge the gap between him and broken people. Between Jews and gentiles, between rich and poor, between goldsmiths and apothecaries. Our God is a God of bridging the gap. So in true literary fashion I want to end this story using the Bicultural, bridge building mindset.
Your mom, already kind of understanding, walks to the fridge and starts rummaging around. Without sharing very much she starts making something. You are unsure what she is doing or if she really understood what happened to you. Your mom with a big smile on her face continues to work in the kitchen.
The next day, during snack time your mom pops into class with a tray of something hidden under tinfoil. You are not quite sure what it is. She proceeds to put it on your desk and walk away. You look embarrassed as kids acknowledge your mom’s presence in the classroom. You see out of the corner of your eye several boys making kissy faces and mocking you the best they can. You slide down your chair slightly and peek under the tin foil. You see a full tray of homemade Chinese egg rolls. Without knowing it you become the most popular kid in class that day. Everyone wants to try an egg roll and trading you want ever you want.
The next day, after the excitement of it all you look down at the snack you have. You silently take a few bites out of your gusher snack and put it aside. Philip turns to you and says that he really liked what your mom brought in yesterday. You awkwardly shrug and give a reassuring smile. Do you think that people would like to try something from my family culture? Curious, you ask Philip about what kind of food his family eats and makes.
The moral of the story is not that you need to bring in Egg Rolls to your child’s class, though some of my fellow classmates still remember that day back in elementary school. I think the story I am trying to tell is the bicultural desire to be a bridge builder in community spaces for everyone. My mom’s attempt to try to help me be proud of my Chinese culture resulted in more individuals in my class bringing in food from their culture. I got the chance to be excited to share some of my snacks with my peers and was willing to try new snacks that I would have never thought of having.
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
— Galatians 3:28
Hope Community, we get the chance to be bridge builders in our own lives, to help share our culture with others, and while doing so, see the culture of those around us.