Our culture, how we were raised, and taught different things, common every day things, determines our outlook on life.
We see subtle things within the borders of our own country that in some cases are generalities, but never-the-less allows us to see what I am talking about.
Grits are a breakfast food found in the South and very seldom in the North. Sweetened iced tea is another almost purely southern tradition. Have you ever tried to order sweetened iced tea in a restaurant North of Tennessee? I have, and believe me it is an exercise in frustration. The same goes for grits too, though I did find them on a menu once in Chicago. When I ordered them they came out in a bowl with milk and sugar on them!
I remember when I was living in Ecuador; I came face to face with what I will term the “Hot & Cold” controversy. Ecuador is a tropical country that straddles the Equator in South America. It also is a country where many people who live outside of the large cities do not have refrigerators and as a result do not have ice. Neither do they, in general, have hot water heaters. The lack of these two “modern” conveniences on a wide scale in a culture leads to some very interesting beliefs in that culture. They are not bad beliefs, just different from ours.
Soft drinks, Pepsi, Coca Cola, etc. in Ecuador are drunk at room temperature, (translated hot), no ice. The belief is that if you drink them with ice, it will give you a cold. They wash dishes in cold water, for as we had a maid tell us, “Hot water will give you arthritis in your hands.” We even called a medical doctor and let her talk to him and ask if indeed using hot water to wash dishes would give you arthritis in your hands. His answer of “no,” still would not convince her, for she had known all of her life that you would get arthritis in your hands from washing dishes in hot water. We never could get her to wash our dishes using hot water.
We all look at other people and judge them by our standards. If their way of thinking or doing things is different from ours, we need to remember that their way is not necessarily wrong or an inferior way to do something. It is just different.
I was lost in the countryside of Ecuador once and stopped and asked a man and his son walking along the road for directions to where I was going. His directions were less than clear so I asked him if they wanted to ride with me and he could show me. They climbed up into the front seat of my Blazer and off we went. The young boy appeared to be seven or eight years old. I had the air conditioner on in the car, but the young man began to roll down the window. I explained to him that it would not be necessary to roll the window down because of the air conditioning. He put the window back up and as he noticed the cool air coming out of the vent he suddenly exclaimed to his father, “There is ‘ice air’ coming out.” He had never seen or experienced air conditioning before. He did not know what it was or even the “correct name” for it, air conditioning. He was amazed. His father tried explaining it to him to little benefit.
God sent His Son into a different culture than that to which he was He was accustomed, and He adapted to it and lived among us. John 1:14 says, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Hebrews 4:15 further states, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.”
After several years of living in and getting acclimated to the heat on the Equator, my family and I came back to the States on a visit and went to a mall in Panama City, Florida. It was hot summertime outside, and freezing cold inside the mall. After about ten minutes inside I had to go back outside into the heat. I was shaking terribly from the “ice air” inside that mall. I was amazed at all of the people who were walking around in shirt sleeves enjoying the refreshing coolness. I had to go back to my car. I sat in the car out in the parking lot waiting on my wife and girls to finish their shopping. I had not come prepared by dressing for inside winter weather. My wife and girls had, they wore sweaters. Boy, now I had to adapt to my own culture again! That’s life!
Brad Morris, a retired minister, originally from Georgetown, served as a pastor and then as a missionary in Costa Rica and Ecuador, can be reached at email@example.com. He has been in ministry for 50 years and a columnist for 17 years, 12 of which have been for the Times.