Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Shirt Off His Back

I thought today it would be fun to write about some of my favorite parts of Dominican culture.  Some of the things that make me think, "Wow, these people are amazing!"

The inspiration for this post came today when I innocently told one of our friends (who was over for lunch after church) that I loved his shirt because the colors were so beautiful.  He told me, "Oh, I'll give it to Owen."  I didn't really take him seriously at first, though I did say something like "No, no!  I'm sure your wife likes it, too," but within a minute he was stripped to a t-shirt and handing a really nice Ralph Lauren shirt to Owen.  He meant it, he wanted Owen to keep it, it was the overflow of a generous heart.  A friendship here is a big commitment.  There is little one wouldn't do for a friend.

My maid is like that, too.  Any time I've complimented a hair clip or a bandanna or anything, she has tried to give it to me.  And she is not in any kind of a financial position to be doing that, so I do my best to keep her from giving or buying me anything, but she cares about us and looks for ways to give.

If someone here has any mode of transportation, it is loaded with people.  If you have a motorcycle, of course you will drive your neighbor or your sister-in-law and her child or whoever when you leave in the morning.  I often see bicyclists giving rides, and wow, seeing them on a hill I think, "That's friendship."  And of course if you have a car you can always give a ride to as many as ask you--I'm pretty sure my pastor's wife has given rides to about 15 at a time in their SUV.  And I mean, it's not that big.

It is humbling and inspiring.  I love that characteristic of Dominican culture.  It is so un-American.

Another characteristic that comes to mind is genuine interest in and compassion for children.  About a month ago, Abigail tripped next to the cafeteria line and cried to me.  A ten year-old boy we had never met ran over from the line to help her up and ask her if she was OK, with genuine compassion and interest.  My jaw dropped.  I tried to picture that happening in America, and I was just unable to conjure up the image.

At the pool a few weeks ago we ran into a twelve year-old  boy who had befriended us when we visited his church when we first arrived in the country.  At the time, he had given the boys a lollipop each week and practiced his English talking to us.  At the pool, once he remembered how he knew us, he joined my boys in playing Marco, Polo and spent a few hours playing with them--and a five and seven year age gap is no small thing.

And every time Abigail and I go onto the school campus to pick up Micah or Jesse (or these days, for her to go to class while I help in a classroom) she is greeted by no less than a dozen students on our short walk, sometimes considerably more.  Kids from pre-K through 12th grade try to talk to her and make friends.  And, again, she's two.

I guess what's so amazing to me is that while kids are kids everywhere, and there is some posturing and acting "cool" on the school campus, it does not require children to snub younger children and ignore their existence.  The compassion adults here show for children in every social context I witness is such that even their children exhibit the same kind of compassion for children younger than themselves.  I love it.

And as our visit to the states approaches, I thought I'd think about what I'll miss while we're gone.