This I realized tonite: I’m a closet Brit, or at least I want to be.
Following a delightful dinner with friends and new-parent buds, James and Alisa, this evening, we began to talk about the cultural differences in times of crisis between Americans and the British. Granted, although we could classify welcoming a baby into this world as more of a life-change, it still yields itself as a crisis according to Webster’s:
*Is it an emotionally significant event or radical change of status in a person’s life? Check.
*Is it a decisive moment (as in a literary plot) that brings about change? Um, yes, like the second that little one arrives.
Take tonight, for example: we, as (my) James, Canon and I, responded to an email asking for us to provide dinner for this family. We said yes, but this – this – was key: we waited for the email to come to us. We showed up gleefully, no doubt, with taco fixins and a warm bottle of Chardonnay to boot, but had we not received that email, I’m sure it would have been a couple of months before I’d reached out to Alisa, asking to bring dinner over.
Had the couple been living in England, there would have been no Meal Plan [email sign-up], but the community automatically, without assumption or second thought, would have showed up with dinner. Death in the family? A ticket would have been purchased without question.
Have we, as Americans, become so culturally sensitive (or desensitized, as one could argue) that we’ve lost the guts to simply be present in times of crisis?
In not wanting to step on toes or offend the other party, are we missing out on opportunities to live and honor and bless and be?
I think about my time on maternity leave: I was eager for the world to meet our little man. Granted, I bounced back quicker following his birth than a lot of women (and therefore was eager for friendship beyond our four walls), but I wanted, I yearned for a phone call or text, checking in to see how I was holding up. After playing that silly female “uh, did I say something wrong?” game, I realized that they were waiting for me.
As Americans, we want to give space and we don’t want to offend and intrude and step on toes, so we back away and wait until we’re invited in.
What if we turned the tables and became the inviters?
When someone says, “Let’s do dinner,” I’m going to pull out my calendar right then. (Is it not already immediately on hand, right there on the phone anyhow? This also, selfishly, applies to offers of babysitting as well; when someone offers to babysit, take them up on it right then and there. Our friend, Keith, taught us this, and we’ve gladly heeded his advice).
When a new mama welcomes a little one into this world, I’m going to call her. Even if it takes her a week to listen to this voicemail, I know that message can mean the world in a new place of isolation and change and helplessness.
When death happens, I’m going to acknowledge the elephant in the room, and ask my friend how they’re really doing. I had a friend a couple of years ago who tragically lost her son; this, no doubt, changed her and affected her greatly. A year or so after his passing, we found ourselves on a walk; we were both quiet for a while, and finally I asked her how she was doing – albeit completely awkwardly – with his death. Her response? Thank you. Most people, she said, were fearful to even mention his name, but she needed to talk about him and remember him and process her emotions.
So, what do you think? Am I off my rocker here? Had we had one too many glasses of Syrah (as the Chardonnay was cooling in the fridge), therefore creating a cultural mountain out of a molehill?
But if I’m not, what would you add to the list? How can you be an inviter and a closet Brit yourself?