She crawled on hands and knees the few feet to an armchair and painfully hauled herself to her feet. Now upright again, she poured a cup of tea, took it to her husband (who was sitting three feet from the teapot). Without a look or a thank you he took it and slurped noisily. She lowered herself cautiously back to the floor where we were sitting. With a grimace she finally sat down again. Then she saw my cup was empty and with a tired look and a nod offered to do it all over again. All I could was shake my head with a smile of thanks, and stand to walk the short distance to the teapot.
It was a scene we saw in different guises all week. The simple domestic “stuff” I take for granted is the exclusive domain of the ladies of the house. Young girls, teenagers, middle aged, old and with creaking joints. All of them accept this way of life as the way it is. Young daughters schooled in serving in the home. A father explaining that if his daughter did not understand how things are, then perhaps when she married there would “be problems” with her husband. This particular daughter just a teenager who spent an hour washing the dishes I had promised (and been allowed) to do that night (my slow speed and “not washing them properly” causing her to take over).
East meets West.
Is it right? Is it wrong? Just because my upbringing is different. My parents perpetuating a different way of doing it right. Is my way correct because it is my way? Or is it just because my way is my way. And what is correct – and why is “correct” even relevant?
East meets West.
The oddest thing was that after just a few days, I held back where trying to help caused stress. Where the target of my intended help – the target being a fully functioning and very savvy lady – knew there would be two consequences of my inept enthusiasm: she would probably have to do it to her usual high standard after my far lower standard, and that her matriarchal standing amongst her own family might be rocked unnecessarily.
West defers to East
The lovely piece in all this was an acceptance. By the ladies – of a male kind of chap seeing the workload and wanting to help. By the men – of an odd kind of visitor who seemed to think all this domestic stuff included him. By me – that there were times it was okay to step forwards and offer a hand, and other times it was not.
East West accepts West East
What was correct for one, compared to what was correct for another, recognised as far less important than family, friendship, hospitality. What was an oddity in one, simply accepted by another. Simply accepted.
And there were plenty of things males did that the women did not. Like earning enough to look after his family. Providing whatever was needed. Serving his family’s needs in a different way.
And that was only “the norm”. Even within just one extended family there were differences. Yet “family” won each and every time. Family being the core. The common element for each family member – either by birth or marriage.
God meets Man meets Man
This family we talk of, this extended family to which we belong, this common core of our Heavenly Father. Can there be the same acceptance? Can there be the same bond? If there is One God, if there is eternal life, if there is Heaven, if there is a Love of freedom, of no fences, of membership by invitation … Can there be the same belonging?
And if the answer is “no” or “maybe” or “if this or that occurs then possibly” … There is just one question in my head …