A Cultural Moment

There are so many cultural differences in my way thinking compared to the Japanese.  A recent one was brought to my attention two days in a row, so thought I would share it here.  Japanese parents do not keep real close tabs on their kids.  In their defense, it is a relatively safe country.  In days gone by, I allowed my kids to go to the park, etc. as long as they stayed together.  Everyone knew where the foreigners lived, so if there was a problem, I knew they would make it back home.  Kidnappings are not an everyday occurrence here.  Kids walk to school or take public transportation.  It is all rather orderly and somewhat impressive.  There is one thing, however, that REALLY bothers me.

I was at the mall yesterday trying to get my shoes repaired.  As I waited for the repair to be finished, I decided to do a little looking around.  I saw a young girl about 2 years old, looking frantically for her mother.  She started calling out for her mama.  She was no where to be seen.  The little girl began to run down the aisle of the mall crying and calling out.  No one came to her aid.  I started to follow her to make sure she would be o.k.  I didn’t approach her because I knew that one look at my foreign face would bring the screams.  The girl ran the entire length of the mall crying.  At the end of the aisle, her mother casually walked out of a store she was shopping in and called to her.  I could tell it was her mother, because the girl stopped crying and ran to her mother.  This all took well over five minutes and her mother did not seem the least bit disturbed that her very young child was not at her side for that length of time.  I witnessed the same thing today at another place that I had to visit to run some errands.  I.do.not.understand.  But it is o.k., I don’t have to.  The experiences of the Japanese are totally different from my experiences as an American.  It doesn’t make one of us wrong and the other right.  We are just different.  My American blood makes me look out for these little ones, when no one else seems to.  They aren’t aware that I am looking out for them, but I am!

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3 thoughts on “A Cultural Moment

  1. Karen Winch - Douala, Cameroon

    Kim, I know your motherly feelings as I have the same concerns and feelings for little children here in Cameroon, Africa. We have little children 3,4,5 or so years of age that wander the dark streets at night which are crime infested. Sunday school is more of a babysitting service for those mothers who want to go shopping at the marché on Sunday morning. Even if they don’t, they have no idea where their children are and don’t really care. We have two little children of around 4 or 5 yrs. old who come to our Wednesday evening service alone from down the dirt road and stay till it is over 1 1/2 – 2 hrs. later. It gets dark here at 6:30 P.M. and our service starts at 6:00 P.M. When it is getting dark, I tell the little children in the service that maybe they need to go home as their mother may be looking for them, but they stay, knowing that their mother isn’t looking even though she has no idea where they are. When the service is over around 7:30 or 8:00 p.m., I have to shake them awake and find someone to walk them home up the very dark road to their house. I am glad they are in church, singing the hymns and feeling safe, but this is not unusual here. I wish I could take every one of these little children home with me to show them the love, protection and attention they need.

    We drive down the streets in the daytime and little toddlers of 1 1/2 and 2 yrs. old are playing along the side of very busy, dangerous streets where cars loose control and come up on the sidewalks killing street vendors, and where motto taxi drivers have wrecks all the time. You and I know that little toddlers can just take a notion to run out into the street even.

    As a missionary, we have to go with the cultural flow but it isn’t always easy. As I read your “Cultural Moment”, my heart went hurrying down that mall aisle with you. God may have put you there as that little girl’s lookout at that very moment. You may have thwarted a predator who saw you without you even knowing. Praise the Lord for your concerned and tender heart.

  2. Amen….I just read the above comment. That little girll had a guardian angel in you. Hard to believe a Mother wouldn’t feel very protective of her little ones. I wonder what she would say if asked about this…btw, I have happily seen every new episode of D.Abbey..via facebook. Have you? Very enjoyable…=)

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