Saturday, January 5, 2008

They call this privilege...

(Jonathan and his friend, Osama~don't worry, no connection or relation to the bin Laden type. We doubt they've even heard of him!)

So how do you explain the idea of “white privilege” to a 3 year old? I pondered this question as I watched Jonathan play with his little friend, Osama. Jonathan ordered him to, Come! and come he did. And then when Jonathan wanted to ride the trike that Osama was on, he simply grabbed the handlebars and got on. There were no cries of protest in response from Osama. Just quiet obedience. The scene before me is an all-too-familiar one. I’ve seen the children at church act much the same way towards Jonathan and the other missionary children. Let him take toys or food from them, or bud to the front of the line. An attitude towards ‘whiteskins’ that many PNG children have been taught by their parents. I can’t remember how many times one of the mamas has discouraged me from trying to correct Jonathan’s behaviour; from trying to get him to give the toy back, or to wait his turn. Somehow, somewhere, someone got the idea that white children are better than black children, and therefore they can do whatever they want.

Osama lives with his family in our compound. But they don’t occupy one of the 20 units. They, that is 6 adults and 4 children, make their home in the back corner, in a little shed, probably smaller than the shed in your backyard. I have no idea how or where all of them find a place to sleep each night. Osama's family is the “maintenance crew” for the compound. They work hard to keep the grass cut and gardens in order—no small feat here in Lae where we get lots and lots of rain. They also just finished painting the outside of all the units. And they bring all the garbage cans to the road twice a week. And many other odd jobs for the landlords. Without enjoying many of the privileges of living in a compound such as ours. For example, as the other children splash and swim in the pool, Osama and his siblings look longingly on. They are not allowed to swim there. My heart and head cry out that this is not right, that things shouldn’t be this way. But I cannot change the things that are out of my control.

What can we do? We can teach Jonathan that he is no better than Osama or any of the PNG people. Not only that, we can try very hard to model this, everyday. Love. Respect. Recognition. Etc. We can teach him that the only difference between the 2 of them happens to be the colour of their skin. Their blood is both red and the blood of Jesus was shed, also for Osama and his family. And that we, along with them, are completely undeserving of this love, and in need of God’s abundant grace.

I noticed Jonathan and Osama and his younger brother, Elijah around the back of one of the units, picking flowers. Jonathan soon returns home with three little rose buds. “For you, Mommy.” My heart is touched at his tenderness, but as I search for my nice glass vase to display them in, I am struck by the realization that even these roses signify our status, our privilege. I don’t think Osama would bother bringing his mommy any flowers. No glass vase there, or table to put it on, and the few cups they have will be used for drinking.

Then Jonathan’s fun with Osama comes to an end. Playtime is over for Osama for now. He’s got to go with his bubu (grandma) to find firewood. They need this wood to cook their next meal…


drmomjoyce said...

HI Ian and Nadia, Jonathon and Karlyn

Although I havent left a comment on your blog, i would like you to know that i am an ongoing reader who really loves to see your life thru these means. Thankyou for sharing and giving me a peek and teach me to appreciate what I have on a day to day basis. I guess what i am trying to do is encourage you to keep writing as I love to read. ( NOw didnt that sound selfish :)

Hugs to you all

Evelien said...

I'm so glad that in Christ we are all one - no one is better than someone else. Just keep on teaching your kids that truth -our world will be a better place for it. You are in our prayers!

R&R Bredenhof said...

Just to let you know that we very much enjoy getting these glimpses into your life and work in Lae! The challenges must be formidable, yet in your posts we can also hear that the joys in bringing Christ's gospel are many. May the Lord grant you the daily strength for doing his work.

It was good to see (in the last post, I think) the hospital that was partially sponsored by a St. Albert group. Maybe I should encourage them to renew their gift!

Reuben & Rebecca
St. Albert, AB

Aunt Irene said...

Dear Ian, Nadia and kids

I so appreciate your insightful comments and descriptions of life in PNG, your love and concern for the people there and your desire to have meaningful relationships with them. It really is giving us a better understanding of the difficulties and joys you are facing. We will continue to pray for you all. Blessings

Aunt Irene