False Assumptions

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Often, I’ve assumed schools, organizations and orphanages abroad have partnerships with multiple short term mission teams and that it then becomes routine for the groups on the receiving end to thank the Americans for their time and donations which may quite possibly be hindering them rather than helping in the long term. As we sat with our sweets and colas and listened to words of gratitude from the heads of the rural school that sat on the hilltop overlooking the city, I wondered how many other groups like us had preceded my group. Soon I remember being overwhelmed with the words that were shared with us, arguably a typical American group, who brought donations and then returned home to our comfortable beds and hot showers. This time though, it felt fresh. My worries about how the locals would perceive yet another group of Americans with handouts vanished. The words shared thanked us for giving the students and schoolteachers a new perspective of Americans that they had not known to be true before. They used words like “spontaneous” and “inclusive” to describe the way we came across to them. “Spontaneous” and “inclusive” suddenly became words I wished to live by for the rest of forever. These words suddenly had a weight to them as if it were my newly acquired duty to defend and represent the entirety of America’s reputation.

 

Along with feeling such a gracious welcome and appreciation from the leaders of the school, I learned that even the smallest and shortest of interactions can influence an entire perspective. The human interaction, and the spontaneity and inclusiveness that personal relationships allow for, develop a cross-cultural understanding that media cannot come close to capturing. If only we as American’s embraced that power. If only we took seriously our personal relationships no matter how new. If only we believed ourselves to be world-changers. If only.

 

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