"Love is kind." I am stumped. How to exert kindness towards a new culture? But I want to truly love this place, so I must reflect. In doing so, I suspect kindness towards a different culture may be the most convicting of love's attributes.
Trying to understand kindness towards a whole culture is a little confusing and makes my head swim. On a lofty level, the word "charity" comes to mind. But thinking of synonyms doesn't actually help me define what it means to be kind to this part of the world. I need something more practical, more rooted to the ground I actually walk on. I don't want some saintly challenge which will cause my feet to float three feet higher than everyone else, but keep my heart frozen and cold.
If I am going to be kind to this culture as an expression of love, I must keep my thoughts and words in check. I am going to use the women who just sat down across from me in Starbucks as an example. Culturally, I do not have the natural inclination to show her kindness. She is wearing a frilly, sparkly dress; she assumes I don't understand her as she speaks about me to her friend; she is picking something out of her teeth with her fingernail. This would be the moment for me to roll my eyes, turn to my American friend, and talk about all the things I think are strange or unacceptable about these people. But is kindness my heart's motivation when I do such? Self-righteousness, insecurity, and ignorance are more like it.
I think kindness to my new culture means not rolling my eyes at things. It means keeping my mouth shut more often. It probably means refraining from judgment unless things truly are against Dad's design for life. But it also means more. A kind person is someone who goes one step further than refraining from being disparaging; a kind person is someone who positively encourages and smiles upon others regardless of differences. I probably will never want to wear a frilly, sparkly dress, but kindness towards my new culture is to understand that the girls here do want to wear such a dress and smile upon them as they do, enjoying their delight in such different expressions of beauty. And if I can become kinder in this sense towards the surrounding culture, I believe I will actually learn to treasure it.
My conclusion is that cultural kindness is in the small things rather than the big things. It's the differences in fashion, manners, food, etc. that seem the most inconsequential, and yet those are the areas where it is hardest to show genuine kindness rather than forced politeness. Kindness is a daily exercise in love and one the biggest testimonies to it when practiced.