a brush with a very different world

Posted: October 20, 2014 in Uncategorized

This past weekend, G and I went to see a Stryper show in Bolingbrook.  I didn’t realize until we were on our way that this would be the first time for G to see them live.  I am not an 80s music person (nor an 80s fashion person, nor an 80s culture person, nor a 80s priorities person…basically, I think the 80s should not even have existed, other than the beautiful gifts they gave me in my two kids) but I was going in support of G – I’ve outgrown the old notion that I can’t have fun doing things that I am only doing to be a good wife, thank God.  Learning that this was G’s first time seeing them made it instantly about ten times more fun for me; he is CRAZY about them, and I was getting to share a rare “first” with him!  In the end, it was a great show and worth being out until 3 AM to do it.

The show was in a sports bar in a little strip mall kind of place.  We got there very early and went walking down the front of the mall to see if there was any good place for supper.  We found:

  • a Muslim clothing store
  • a Muslim barber shop
  • an African beauty products store
  • a Muslim grocery store with a little African restaurant counter, with a big-screen TV playing news with what looked to me like Arabic script scrolling along the ticker

Not feeling adventurous enough to order food inside a place that advertised “fresh whole baby goat” for $5.99 a pound, we walked across the parking lot, hoping to hit the Dairy Queen.  When we saw that there was no seating inside, we elected to go to the other place –  JJ’s Fish.  We have a JJ’s Fish in Rock Island, but it’s in a neighborhood where I don’t have the nerve to go in.  The staff were Asian or something (I’m too damned American to really be able to differentiate between the folks all those countries over on that side of the planet, I’m ashamed to say) – that seemed somehow humorously weird to me, given the menu.

JJ’s had a regular “fish and chips” kind of menu above the counter, but above the register there was another menu with the heading “Zahiba Halal.”  I consulted the Google, and learned that this basically is the Muslim equivalent of what Jewish folks call “kosher” (no offense intended, if my understanding lacks some crucial sort of subtlety; I’m shooting a bit in the dark here.)  That was when I really started to understand:  I had stepped into a pocket of reality that I’ve never even brushed against before:  everyday Muslim life.

The whole thing fascinated me.  I am from some mix of middle American Christian culture and middl American secular culture.  These two, I understand.  These two are so familiar to me that I tend to think of them as “reality” – but really, they are only MY reality.  I realized in a more real way than I have before:  there are “realities” out there that don’t include even a breath of my Christian culture – where what is exotic and foreign to me is just everyday life.

G was wearing his outrageous coat that has scripture written all down the back of it (Revelation 22); in the restaurant; people kept asking to see it and asking what it was.  The last guy who asked seemed open and friendly when he asked, but as soon as G said the word, “scripture,” he was done.  He held his hand out in front of him.  “Never mind, I don’t want to know,” and he was moving away fast.  G was smiling and trying to explain, and he was getting more offended by the moment, despite the two ladies in the corner who were asking me to repeat the scripture address again.  “Don’t try to evangelize me!” he was practically yelling.  We smiled and left in peace.

The line for Stryper was LONG by the time we got back from supper – it stretched back past all those other stores I mentioned above.  The doors weren’t even open yet; we got in line for approximately forever, inching our way forward in the frigid night air.

It was my perfect opportunity to gawk.

I watched the Arabic-looking characters crawl across that TV.

I stared at the African menu, with no idea what I would choose from it, were I ever to summon the nerve to walk through the door.

I peered through the plate glass into the grocery store, trying to see what there was.

I watched men standing around talking around someone getting a haircut.

I gazed at every wig ad in the window of the African beauty products store, and noticed a Christian revival poster among those ads.

Most fascinating for me was the mannequins in clothes nothing like I’ve seen on anyone I ever knew, and the styrofoam heads sporting various hijabs.  I wished I could go in and look around, though even if it had been open, I’d never have been brave enough to do so.

I wondered what it is like to wake up in the morning and put on one of those long dresses with pants underneath, and slide a hijab over my head.  What it would be like to add “whole baby goat” to my grocery list.  How people would look at me as I ran my errands.  How I would feel.  I thought about how foreign, how bold, how loud the people that I am currently comfortable around might seem to me then.  I thought about how judged I might feel – afraid, even.  I thought of the judgments I might easily hold against people like me.  I thought about entering a business where no English whatsoever was being spoken.

The world got a little bigger for me.  I try hard to see the world from a “diverse” point of view.  I try hard not to be prejudiced just from lack of general exposure.

I try really, really hard.

But it turns out just a little walk down a strip mall was more helpful than I’d have guessed, on that front.

  1. laurie says:

    loved this and it confirms a lot of junk in myself, but one thing that kept running through my head and especially the reaction to G’s coat – God loves people. Jehovah loves people. He sent His Son because He loves people. All cultures. All Dialects. All colors. Yahweh loves people. He is a God after the heart of all people. God loves people.

    I can get that at work everyday. Not the culture but just think and live differently than me.

    Does not change the tune.

    God loves people and that is what He wants from me if I believe and live what I say I believe.

    This was wonderful – a magnifying glass to my heart. Thanks K!

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