Friday, June 24, 2011

Crossing Cultures With Cupcakes

They moved in to the neighborhood several months ago. The women all wear long, black robes and black scarves that completely cover their heads and necks. Their faces are exposed. My curiosity was piqued by the fact that they often sat out on their driveway in plastic lawn chairs. This seemed like an openness to the neighborhood. But their very conservative dress made me hesitant. I was afraid that I might inadvertently offend them. I had no idea what country they were from or if they spoke English. Later I noticed the women were also sitting on furniture in the garage with the garage door completely open. This too seemed to me to express openness in spite of their dress. The problem was that when I saw them, I was usually working and on my way to the hospital or some meeting—no time to spontaneously stop.

So, I prayed for an opportunity. And I determined that the next time I was home and saw that they were sitting outside or in the garage I would walk over and introduce myself. A long time passed and no opportunity presented itself.

Then on Memorial Day I was working in the yard and noticed their garage door was open. I quickly went inside our house and put some more appropriate clothes on since I was wearing my bathing suit and a short skirt cover-up. I figured this would definitely offend them. Then I remembered that I had a new batch of cupcakes and Rice Krispy bars for our guests arriving later. But I also know I always have way too much food whenever I have company. So I put some of the cupcakes and bars on a plate and covered them with saran wrap. Then I scribbled our names and phone number and address on a Post-it Note and attached it to the top of the saran-covered plate. I said a prayer and walked outside. But all the preparation had taken long enough that my neighbors’ garage door was closed. What to do? I said another prayer and determined there was no turning back. I would have to ring the door bell. I did.

It took them a while to come to the door. I could hear a lot of commotion inside. And most of it was not in English! Finally, an adult woman, dressed in the full black robe and scarf, came to the door, talking on the telephone. I held out the plate and tried to explain what I was doing. The woman smiled but shook her head. Quickly an older man and another woman appeared. The gentleman seemed to understand and said something to the women, and they took the plate of goodies. Then two small children poked their heads out the door. They were speaking English! I was saved! I explained to them what I was doing—welcoming them to the neighborhood. They all smiled and nodded and seemed genuinely appreciative. They closed the door, and I left. I wasn’t sure if my mission was accomplished but I at least was grateful for the opportunity to try to reach across the cultural divide.

Two days later I arrived home from work and found a plate of flatbread on our kitchen counter on the very same plate I had delivered the cupcakes and bars on. My husband, Drew, explained that an older woman, dressed in black from head to toe had rung the door bell and given him freshly baked flatbread. She spoke in her native tongue. Drew said the bread was still warm and delicious—which explained why half of it was already eaten! It was wonderful and a wonderful affirmation of the power of crossing cultures with something as simple as cupcakes. I felt a deep sense of joy over what might be ahead. I am not much of a textbook learner. I am more of a dive-in-and-see-what-happens learner. I could imagine all that I might learn from getting to know these neighbors, including how to show and express the love of Christ to them respectfully and clearly.

A few days later a younger woman came by with two small children and brought a pan of Baklava. She spoke English. Drew told her that an older woman had come by with bread earlier, she said, “Oh! That was my grandmother. She did find the right house!” The two small children were oo-ing and ahh-ing over our pool, so Drew invited them to come swimming sometime. We will definitely follow up on that soon. I think the swimming pool might cross cultures even more than cupcakes!

1 comment:

  1. Food and children - two universal keys to intercultural relationships!