Graphic comes from livingwaterlutheran.com via Bing
I wonder if the word foreign might eventually be redundant?
Where I grew up in England, my mother from Derbyshire, father from Nottinghamshire, we had dialects, and there were inflections and local flavours within regions and districts, you were foreign if yo came from 10 miles away. I was once asked by an Australian work colleague to translate what a tradie from Yorkshire was saying, he assumed, even though I had migrated as a mere child, I’d know! What astounded me was that it didn’t seem that difficult to understand what said tradie was saying. In Australia, there are subtle accents between east and west, and a variety of indigenous languages. Across this vast land there is also a sense of the local, which has become important across activities such as sport, politics, but especially federal funding.
I was once appointed to serve three towns. I was based in a main centre and would visit the other two on a rota. Once, while in the smaller of the three towns, on market day, I got chatting to some people who were passing through. One of the locals who knew me joined the conversation. At some point one of the visitors asked if I was a local. The local said I was not, and I said I did. There ensued one of those useless exchanges – no you’re not, yes I am. This went on for a split second or two with much positioning and my answer’s better than yours. The true local pointing out that I lived 45kms away in the big town. At some point the visitor asked what I meant. People really shouldn’t ask me questions, it gets tricky, I love to engage, I’m passionate about what I believe so they should be warned.
Little did the visitor know I had been waiting a lifetime for this question.
My answer: I’m local to Australia. Blank stares all round. Then the penny dropped. Derision followed. I never did convince them. Apparently you have to come from somewhere, belong somewhere, be part of something, or the nation, the world, cannot function.
I belong to a small circle of friends who firmly hold to the notion that we belong to each other, and not to any flag, state, or bounded ideal. We don’t much care for petty idealism, sabre rattling politics, flag waving jingoism, or some hyped pride based on place or space. Besides, those beliefs and behaviours have not got us very far.
As the graphic suggests, I’m more for reaching out and taking the hand of another, irrespective of any standard defining characteristics, be they colour, belief, birth country, sexual orientation, class, income, education, and etc. The word foreign is a divisive word, intentionally so, as it defines if you’re from round here or not. I accept that people take pride in where they’re from, and that they need to have conenction and identity, but I wonder if we can dial that back a bit, and focus on being present to hospitality, need, helping, journeying with the other? As is often said, we need to look for what we have in common rather than what divides us.
One of my main influences in life has been music. I have particularly admired Peter Gabriel, formerly of Genesis, who helped pioneer World Music in the late 70s as a fusion of styles and genres working together. Paul Simon has encouraged working with artists from other cultures, notably his album Graceland was founded on this ideal. Robert Plant has similarly worked with and encouraged artists from all over the world.
I was never a diehard Glen Campbell fan, but this song was influential in my thinking. It makes a great point: if we see our brother/sister standing by the road, carrying a heavy load, then it’s up to us to help share the load, to enable the other to get by, to get along. The refrain, “You’ve got to try a little kindness …” is perfect for our world. If we show a little kindness, then the definition foreign becomes redundant, and all people are from round here.
These days I’m local to the globe …