Tuesday, June 07, 2005

What My Mom Did Right

Tonight I'm going to the Dragon Boat Festival my GR family. The Dragon Boat Festival celebrates the arrival of summer and honors the memory of Chinese poet and stateman, Qu Yuan. More than 2600 years ago Qu Yan tried to introduce fair policies in the state of Chu. His fellow ministers plotted against him and he was sent away in disgrace. For 67 years, Qu Yuan lived in exile writing beautiful poetry that told of his passion and love for his country. The Dragon Boats are long, sleek boats with ornate dragon heads attached to their bows, and dragon tails attached to their sterns. Each boat has a leader who sits at the bow beating a huge drum to set the pace for the team. The races symbolize the Chinese desire to save their beloved poet-patriot. (For more on Chinese festivals)

I grew up with an interest in different cultures. In fact, as a new Christian, I studied at the Summer of Institute of Linguistics, with hopes of becoming a Bible translator. Ironically, it seems that God has led me to support missionaries abroad and stay here to meet the needs of broken families in my own culture.

I have my mom to thank for this love of cultures. There's a part of my book that was edited out for space, a bit of a tribute to my mom. This seems a good place to share it:

Look For Opportunities to Connect (from an unpublished chapter of Generation Ex)

I love my mom. She is energetic, fun, beautiful and very intelligent. We share many traits. We are both goal-oriented, but have very different goals. We are both organized, but have different priorities. We both love to read and listen to music, but have very different tastes. We are both spiritual, but have very different faiths...

...No one would ever accuse my mom of being a June Cleaver-wannabe. She was right up there with the pioneer women of the 1970's, blazing new trails of opportunity for the women of my generation. I have much to be grateful for, especially as a single woman. However, I'm not convinced that society's problem was so much a problem of devaluing women as much as it was devaluing the importance of the home, and the ultimate importance of the homemaker role. Mom and I could argue into eternity on this one, as we could on many issues. But the important thing is that we can share our views. I doubt we'll ever convince each other to change positions, but we both use our intelligence to seek information to form the convictions we hold.

My memories of Mom don't involve her in the kitchen cooking fancy meals or folding laundry or any traditional "mom" activities. But she taught me to enjoy life, to find activities I love and to do them often. I have fond memories of lazy days fishing on the lakes of northern Minnesota, cruising across America in our motorhome, and Sunday afternoons eating Red Baron pizza and Doritos, drinking Diet Coke, and cheering on Studwell, Millard, and the rest of our beloved, hapless Vikes. Mom taught me that it was never okay to judge someone on the basis of their skin color, or anything else that made them different from me. She looked for ways to celebrate cultural differences and made a point of giving me opportunities to experience life from other perspectives.

She wanted me to feel good about myself. As a health teacher, she was always bringing home books on self-esteem for me to read, even when she wouldn’t talk to me about these issues. Mom reflected on the things she didn't want to pass down from her family, and worked passionately to make things better for me. For that I am grateful. And I laugh when I think how exasperated she must be when she sees that her liberal pendulum has swung right back with my conservative convictions.

It has taken my mom and I a long time to find a balance in our relationship with each other because we are so different. During an election season, I picked up a flyer and of course, Mom and I planned to vote for different candidates. She said, "How can you vote for him? Just look at where he stands on the issues." So we went down the list, and his stand on the issues were exactly the reason I voted for him. I think Mom has a lot of faith in this world—if people would just pull together, they could right the world's wrongs. I don't have a lot of faith in this world. I put my faith in the One who made this world. I think Mom has experienced too much of what is wrong with Christianity to believe that it has exclusive access to the truth. I believe Christianity--or more accurately, Christ--sets the standard of Truth. I wish more than anything that Mom would share my beliefs. But I have to respect her own spiritual journey.

If your parents don't share your faith, then the way you choose to relate to them is the best way you can allow them to experience it. If they can see a change in your behavior towards them, they will be compelled to ask about the difference. Mom knows that the reason we have a relationship at all is because of my faith. I have been able to share why I have come to believe what I do, and my hope is that someday she will believe it too.

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