A few years ago I read a book about different cultures called Foreign to Familiar.  One of the author’s main points was that hot or warm climate cultures are different from cold or cool climate cultures.  In the almost nine years since I moved from a cool climate culture to a hot climate culture, I have found the authors observations to be true, especially with regard to orientation or world view.  Cool or cold cultures tend to be more TASK oriented, while warm or hot cultures tend to be more RELATIONSHIP oriented.  This has been my biggest obstacle in trying to adapt to the Mexican culture.  I am definitely TASK oriented!  Mexico is Not!

My daughters, Sally and Kelly, are four years old and three years old and both go to “kindergarten”, which is called “kinder” here, and children begin attending when they are three years old.  I have two adult children in the U.S. and my experience with them in kindergarten and my daughters now in kinder are quite different.  My experience with my daughters and their schooling in the States was basically no experience.  They went to school and came home.  I asked them how their day went and what they learned and that was about it.  Their “task” was to go to school.  My “task” was to go to work.

Here the parents are much more heavily involved not just with their children’s school experience, but with the school in general.  The school doesn’t pay people whose task it is to clean the school, thus different parents stay after school with their kids to clean the classroom and in the process, develop relationships.  The school doesn’t have people whose job it is to be grounds keepers or maintenance personal, so the parents gather together at the beginning of the year to clean up the weeds, trim the trees and bushes, and give the school a new coat of paint and get to know one another.  The school doesn’t have decorating committees, so parents gather to decorate the school for special celebrations, like the big Christmas program (which they still call Christmas and includes a drama with Joseph and Mary and Jesus).  Last year I cut a bunch of palm branches and helped make the “stable” and got to know some of the parents.

When the school does have a party or celebration, all parents are expected to attend.  Last week my daughter’s school had a family physical education day.  A day when parents were encouraged to spend the morning with their children playing games that required physical energy.  Now, being a task oriented kind of parent, I would have much preferred to stay at the mission and work on my gardening tasks, but alas, I had to go since we have two children, and each child needed to have a parent or adult alongside.  We ran in circles, jumped up and down, and competed in silly games. Much to my surprise, I found myself laughing like crazy with the other parents and having a generally good time deepening my relationship with my kids and wife, and starting new relationships with other parents.  All things considered it was not such a bad way to spend a morning, although it initially went against my cultural comfort zone.

I’m becoming increasingly convinced that this Mexican culture is more like the culture Jesus lived in, and am pretty sure that our Lord was more relationship oriented than task oriented.  He had a vital task to perform in securing our redemption and salvation, and accomplished the task flawlessly.  But I need to remind my task oriented self, that the reason for Jesus’ task was so that I can have a relationship with the Father and all his children.  The next time I experience a conflict between my tasks and my relationships, I will try to choose the relationship.  Ideally, our tasks and relationships will go hand in hand.  We will work at tasks alongside others thus building relationships at the same time.  As a gardener here at the mission, I normally work by myself.  Occasionally someone will help me and then I am not only growing plants, but growing in relationship.  I also teach a garden class to children at our primary school (you can read about this on my  other blog PeopleAreLikePlants.com).  In teaching basic gardening principles to my students, I am not only accomplishing a task, but connecting with kids relationally.  I also teach English classes.  Same principle – Accomplishing tasks and building relationships at the same time.

It’s not easy.  As people we naturally prefer one thing over another.  Some people are devoted to their work, their tasks, and shy away from relationships.  Others live for developing relationships and don’t always do the best with their tasks or jobs.  To enjoy God and to be happy in Him, we need to do both and to do both we daily need to Seek His Face and pray for help in both accomplishing tasks and growing in our relationships.

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All hot-climate communication has one goal: to promote a “feel-good” atmosphere, a friendly environment.  The truth can take a backseat to the relationship.  No one is willing to jeopardize the friendliness, no matter how superficial, to tell me the truth about my hair.  Let me find out how bad it looks some other way.     Sarah A. Lanter in Foreign to Familiar

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