Sometimes I hesitate to write a post like this, fearing that people may consider me a Know-It-All or a dummy who’s imposing his views on others. However, nothing ventured, nothing gained, as they say (whoever “they” are).
I HAVE 2 AUDIENCES:
(1) IMMIGRANTS OR MIGRANTS
The reason I wanted to write a post like this is because I have seen immigrants for many years here in North Turtle Island (Canada) so concerned about their motherlands and yet nearly forgetting the place they’re now living. For example, you pick up the ethnic newspapers, and all the front page news is about the motherland. Other pages are about how Canadian government or provincial policy affects their particular immigrant group.
Of course, this is entirely normal, to be concerned about your motherland. For me, I’ve never been to Norway, and the Norwegians I’ve met here in the B.C. Lower Mainland area don’t seen to know much about Norway, its language and culture. We’re all just Wannabes. Or Nostalgists.
Plus, Norway is one of the richest countries in the world, so they don’t really need my concern.
Another group of people I’d like to address are the local-born or raised people in Turtle Island (North America) who are so concerned for Africa or some other continent, but seem to care so little about their local community. These kind of folks are everywhere here. I remember returning from China and having a local lady get all worked up and say, “Oh, they’re oppressing the Tibetans. I hate China.” Very ironic. Canada treats its own First Nations like crap, especially on Stephen Harper’s watch, and you’re all excited about China’s human rights. Sister, let’s clean up the poop in our own cattle stall before we walk over to our neighbour’s place and criticise him for his dirty stall!
Here’s to all of you: BLOOM WHERE YOU’RE PLANTED.
Or from a perspective from the ancient Jewish Scriptures, there is a story about a girl named Esther who was chosen to be queen, but then faced a crisis situation where she had to put her life on the life for her own ethnic group. When doubting whether she could do anything meaningful to help, her Uncle Mordecai who raised her said:
Who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this? (Esther 4:14 ESV)
Meaning that the entire reason she was in that particular place, time and circumstances was to perform the heroic deed she was hesitating to do.
In another story, the Biblical prophet Jeremiah (here called “Yirmeyahu”) wrote a letter to the Jewish exiles who had been forced away from their homeland to move to Babylon:
4 “Here is what Adonai–Tzva’ot, the God of Isra’el, says to all those in exile, whom I have caused to be carried off captive from Yerushalayim to Bavel:
5 ‘Build yourselves houses, and live in them. Plant gardens, and eat what they produce. 6 Choose women to marry, and have sons and daughters. Choose wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage to men, so that they can have sons and daughters — increase your numbers there, don’t decrease. 7 Seek the welfare of the city to which I have caused you to go in exile, and pray to Adonai on its behalf; for your welfare is bound up in its welfare . . .’
Immigrants, local born and raised Turtle Islanders, and everyone else on Planet Earth:
BLOOM WHERE YOU ARE PLANTED.
WHO KNOWS IF YOU HAVE ARRIVED ON THE SCENE AT YOUR PARTICULAR TIME AND PLACE FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS?
SET DOWN ROOTS. DIG IN FOR THE LONG HAUL. GET ESTABLISHED. SEEK THE WELFARE OF YOUR CITY. PRAY FOR IT.
YOUR WELFARE IS BOUND UP IN YOUR CITY’S WELFARE!
Don’t allow your mind to be consumed with faraway places all the time. Sometimes, yes. Day and night, no.
SOME PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
I know it’s hard to focus on the here and now, and our current GPS location. When I lived in Mainland China, my dream had come true. I had been waiting for years. I had even written a song:
When will we ever get to China? When will we ever cross the seas? When will we get a chance to make a start of our dreams? . . . blablabla
Finally, after I arrived, a few months and the honeymoon stage was over. Quite quickly, frankly. And Stage 2 set in: Reminiscing about the Motherland, North Turtle Island (Canada). For some strange reason, I started liking McDonalds. I downloaded all my favourite songs from my teenage years. I hung out with Canadians. I relished teaching our English students about Canada and Canadian culture. Sometimes I felt like the Canadian government should pay me for being their un-designated ambassador.
Luckily I got out of that stage, or my whole purpose for being in China would have been shot to Hell. I ended up hanging out with locals, learning tons about Chinese culture. I was blessed to become semi-fluent in Mandarin, an investment in time which keeps on paying dividends.
In a nutshell, I got to bring a piece of China back with me to North Turtle Island (Canada).
Now, I could have stayed there in China, and that was indeed my plan. But family circumstances changed drastically, so I was forced to return. If I had stayed, I would have “bloomed where I was planted” even further.
Now I’m here. The two times I returned, I fell into depression. Serious depression. I really didn’t wish to be here. It’s beautiful. “The Best Place On Earth” boasts the BC government. But, sh**, it is expensive. Jobs are few and low-paying. And people are not so friendly. It takes a long time to get to know people here, to break into the society. Plus, the constant rain can drive you bonkers sometimes.
Eventually, after a few months, I sought to dig myself out of depression. Then I decided to launch into life here with gusto. To get really involved. To go out and exercise. Enjoy nature. Attend activities. Meet old friends and new. G.O.Y.A. – get off your (smart phone) apps, get active & do s.t. useful!
Honestly, this is the only way. Anything else is impractical, unrealistic, only dreaming.
Be where you be.
Be who you be.
FOCUSING ON WHAT UNITES US & THE COMMON GOOD
Just like John Lennon sang: “You may say I’m a dreamer, I’m not the only one.” Yes, I dream of people being focused on their local area and local people. Loving our neighbours as ourselves.
In Vancouver, where I live, someone once said that one reason Vancouverites are so apparently unfriendly is that it is a city of immigrants. Everyone cares only for their own immigrant community. Chinese focus on their own. Punjabis. Koreans. Filipinos. Iranians. Europeans. First Nations. Etc. Few are open to people of other ethnicities. Then throw religion into the mix. Evangelicals only care about Evangelicals, Catholics about Catholics, Muslims about Muslims, Buddhists about Buddhists, etc.
In one famous story, someone asked Yeshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) about the who is the “neighbour” of the “Love your neighbour as yourself” command. He answered:
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[Deut 6:5]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[Lev 19:18]”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[a day’s wage] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
(Luke 10:25-37 New International Version)
We all need to focus on something that people have dubbed the “Common Good.” Consider John Lennon’s song (Note: John was a pretty religious guy, so his comment of an ideal world with “no religion” could well mean “anything that gets in the way of peace/non-violence”. Remember, he also mentioned no “countries” or “possessions” . . . as if!):
Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today…
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world
You, you may say
I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will live as one