Three pushes in and I was breaking the rules.
The weather in Colorado that afternoon was gorgeous—a perfect day for the park. Evan climbed onto each of the three slides—all different—that were colorful and fun and clean and safe.
I placed Renea into the swing, next to the little girl being pushed by her blond mama. The blue sky spread itself above us, stretching from the Colorado Rockies. I wasn’t sweating or shivering—my hair not frizzy, my clothes new, not smelly. Life, that day, was beautiful.
I breathed in the joy of rest, pushed the swing and Renea’s feet soared.
The other mama started talking first—small talk about our girls swinging next to each other. I asked her how old her tiny little girl is—just three months younger than my daughter. She’s half Renea’s size.
“She was born at 27 weeks,” the other mama said. “My first daughter—now 4—was born at 28 weeks. I had preeclampsia and blood clots in my brain while I was pregnant. This daughter was in the hospital for 92 days when she was first born.”
I pushed Renea, processing the words, the life of this stranger who lives—all the time—in beautiful, clean, cool Colorado.
I didn’t know this lady, but the questions flowed from my mouth.
“How did you cope while your little one was in NICU for so long? And will you try to have more kids?”
It was this second question that broke the rules. Just three pushes in and I was asking a question that was inappropriate for a stranger to ask a new acquaintance—in America anyway.
In Indonesia, perfect strangers have asked me about my birth control preferences and whether or not I’ve had my son circumcised and lots of other personal questions related to having kids or being married. I used to turn red and stammer my way out of the conversation. Now, seven years into life in Indonesia, I answer with more ease and ask my own “personal” questions back.
Since returning to the States a week ago for a month-long break, I’ve had to relearn the rules. The ones about driving, about how to buy things, and remembering to bring a jacket. My son has had to learn them, too, though I enjoy watching him break them. He ran through the sprinkler on a warm 75-degree Colorado afternoon—wearing the snow boots his grandma bought him and which he is so eager to wear.
And other times, I’ve wondered what would happen if he broke the rule about relating to the people we didn’t know. Like the other mama and her son on another warm afternoon at the park. The ones who were playing baseball. The ones Evan begged to join, even though we didn’t know them.
(“Yes, Evan, I know that normally when you see a white person, we actually know them, and that when we see an Indonesian person, they would do anything to get you to join them, but trust me, this situation is different.”)
What would happen if I broke the rules?
What would happen if I took the Indonesian relational rules and applied them here? Like asking questions that are probably too personal, but that allow a hurting mama to truly share her heart?
Or reaching out to strangers that Evan wants to be friends with, allowing him the freedom to be the friendly boy he is, wherever he is? Or talking to the hungry lady with the sign at the stoplight and inviting her over to my house to learn to make granola while our kids played together?
What if I lived like I do in Indonesia, served like I do there, took risks like I do there, reached out like I do there? What if I did that wherever I am? Making the whole world—even my home country—my mission field?
Would we be rejected? Thought weird? Get stared at? Get ignored?
The mama with the tiny little girl didn’t pause after my intrusive questions. She continued—about her struggles to take care of her premature babies, her dreams for more kids, her hopes for adoption.
And so I pushed Renea high and pushed the fears away. And the day soared high and clear and blue above the rocky mountains that sometimes try to separate us.
photo credit, Victor Bezrukov