By Mone Cavan
If we refuse to examine our long-held assumptions because we believe we are right, we will never become the person God wants us to be. We won’t love the way He wants us to love. To love a stranger is to get to know them, to listen to them – not to assume you know where they are coming from just by their appearance or how they sound to you. I’ve learned this lesson over and over again at my workplace at a retail pharmacy. I constantly cross paths with many people from different backgrounds, and many times these interactions test my patience.
An older Caucasian gentleman used to come into the pharmacy to pick up his prescription. The first time, as I was counseling him about his prescription, he started speaking a foreign language to me. When I kindly told him I didn’t understand what he was saying, he proceeded to ask me, “Why not?” and then told me I must have forgotten my native language because I spoke great English.
I told him I wasn’t the nationality he thought I was. He asked me what I was, and a part of me wanted to say “human,” but I knew what he was referring to since I’ve been asked this question most of my life. So I told him, “TaiDam” (pronounced Thai-Dum). He then proceeded to babble on about Thailand. At that point I was limited on time and didn’t want to correct him, to explain that TaiDam is not the same as Thai. I just let him assume I was from Thailand.
Each time this gentleman came into the pharmacy, he wanted to speak with me. I learned that he was a veteran from the Korean war and wanted to share with me what he learned while in Asia. I would listen politely, but I was also a bit offended and annoyed. I wanted to be seen as more than being Asian, and I didn’t want to always talk about Asian things. I also assumed he was being condescending by oversharing about Asia as this was the behavior to which I was accustomed throughout my life. While growing up, I witnessed my parents being spoken down to many times by white Americans because they spoke little English. They were belittled and sometimes taken advantage of.
I will choose not to add to the mess by being unloving or closed off because I am offended.
As time passed this gentleman continued to share stories from Asia. I had to pray many times about how I should respond. God answered, as always. I was given the opportunity to give the gentleman an immunization and a medication review. Upon wrapping up the visit, he finally asked me about my history. I was able to tell him that I was not Thai; I was TaiDam. I shared with him the differences between the two cultures. He was intrigued and wanted to know more about the TaiDam people, and with each visit we learned more about each other. He was shocked to learn I was a Christian. All the Asians he knew were not Christians. I was able to also tell him how I became a Christian despite having parents that were Buddhist. My story reminded him that God is not God just for one race; He is God for all races.
All in all, I am grateful to have been able to squelch my assumptions about this gentleman being an arrogant person. I was able to get to know his heart and made a friend.
This reminds me of a tradition from our culture. Prior to entering someone’s home, we take off our shoes to show respect. We are not bringing into the home the dirt and filth from outside. And though the house may be a mess, we’re not adding to the mess. It would be disrespectful if we did. So when someone approaches me and assumes I am “nothing more than an immigrant” or a stereotypical Asian American, I will choose to take off my shoes. I will choose not to add to the mess by being unloving or closed off because I am offended. I will choose grace over and over again because Grace chose me and placed me where I needed to be. My main goal is to make Him known and to discover something beautiful among the mess.
About the Author
Mone Cavan, who is of TaiDam descent, came to the United States with her family at the age of four. She became a Christian at the age of 16 when a friend told her about God and how He could help her deal with her depression issues. This sparked in Mone curiosity about Christianity, and soon she was driving to a local church on her own, Lifesong Church of the Open Bible (formerly Asian Church of the Open Bible). After a few Sundays Mone was sold out for Christ. She became involved in the church and met her future husband, Chris Cavan. Mone and Chris have been married for nearly eleven years and have six wonderful children. Mone works full time as a pharmacist. During her free time she likes to read, organize, cook, and do photography.