Do you speak Mandarin or Japanese?
My friend April and I sure don't! But that didn't stop us from taking a trip to China and Japan!
It's one thing to get around Europe, where the other languages at least use the same characters as English. It's not difficult to figure out. But it's a whole another animal when you don't even understand the characters you are looking at!
I was thrilled when our plane touched down in Shanghai. I made it! The sound of the stamper on my passport gave me a second wind, despite the extreme jetlag. I was ready to experience China and Japan for the next 10 days! But truth be told - I was concerned with our ability to get around town having zero knowledge of the language.
Our first morning in Shanghai, we decided to take the metro downtown. Looking at the metro map was like reading Chinese! (WOW - that's the first time in my life that cliche is actually a true statement!!)
We tried to communicate to the ticketing agent our desired destination, which was a feeble attempt at best. (Why is it we think that speaking English SLOWER will better help someone understand? Kinda silly, isn't it?) But somehow he managed to understand and help direct us to the machine, where we would purchase our ticket.
Throughout the entire week, we experienced similar experiences wherever we went. Every time we would get stuck understanding something, someone would come to our rescue to help us out.
Not with spoken language. But with hand direction, a smile, a gesture, or even pointing on a map.
The Chinese and Japanese people were so kind. So patient. And always helpful. Outside of physically sticking out like a sore thumb with our tall height and blond hair, we felt comfortable. We felt welcome.
I tried as best as I could to assimilate into their culture, and my efforts were well received. I even learned 2 words in mandarin (which I'm extremely proud of!) - "Knee-hao" (hello) and "she-she" (thank you).
I got thinking about how these beautiful cultures embraced me, and realized that it doesn't matter what language we speak, or what characters are in our alphabet. We are all human. It's easy to notice a human in need, and it's easy to help. Most times, words aren't even necessary.
Coming back to the states, my initial reaction was "Why can't we be that helpful in America? Why aren't we more patient?" I'm ashamed to admit that I have personally been guilty (on a NUMBER of occasions) of getting annoyed at people and groups everywhere that happen to be in my way. ESPECIALLY tourists on the Strip. I was disappointed in myself when I realized that the very people I get annoyed with, are the ones helping me right now.
At that moment, I acknowledged the part I can play to make a difference in the world around me.
I can bring the warmth I experienced in China and Japan to America. I can start my own personal movement of giving others more time, more grace, and more patience. Offer a nod and smile. A helpful gesture. Offer to take a picture. Give direction to those who seem lost. There's so much I can do to show the world how compassionate Americans (and specifically Las Vegas people) can be!
What about you? You may or may not have experienced another country where you were the foreigner. Whether or not you have, I encourage you to pretend that everyone around you IS someone you can help.
Not a SINGLE interaction in our lives is without purpose. Every single minute of every single day is perfectly orchestrated by our Creator to deliver us opportunities to make a difference and transform as a person.
You just have to open your eyes, and open your heart to the opportunity. They are everywhere. Do you see them, or are you so focused inward, you ignore the lessons around you?
I'm issuing a challenge this week. At some point, when you see someone in need or confused, take an extra minute, and help. (Bonus points if they are a foreigner!!) Speak the language of Humanity.
I may be a speaker with English as my primary language, but my new goal is to become bi-lingual, and fluent in the second language of Humanity. What about you?
Until next week, let's practice this language together. I guarantee you will find your fluency quickly!
- Kimberly Faith
If you are interested in having me speak to your group, please contact me! I'd love to chat! :)