Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Third Culture Kids

This past weekend the boys and I got to go on a retreat with our church.  It was a great time of fellowship and getting to know people better.  It was a family camp with a medieval theme.  Fun!  One of my favorite parts was getting to help with a food challenge.  You know, that game where disgusting, sort of medieval things were put out on a table and teams had to eat them for tournament points.  

I noticed a common theme as people either scarfed down, tentatively ate, or nearly gagged things back up.  By far the majority of those who happily ate anything were those who had spent at least part of their lives serving or were with their parents overseas!  Our boys were champs and actually enjoyed the 'gross' things they ate.  A father who absolutely cleaned things up for his team spent a number of years in Africa, etc.  

The one that caught me by surprise was a stylish, feminine lady who easily downed multiple things with gusto.  It shouldn't have surprised me because she's a friend that I'm getting to know pretty well, but in the midst of everyone I sometimes forget that she's different inside.

She's an adult Third Culture Kid (TCK) and she was the little girl in the middle of this picture. She lived in the highlands of PNG and spent some time in the Philippines as well. 

I love this photo because it speaks volumes to me without any words---joys, losses, victories, good-byes, struggles, hellos, places that become 'home', and just LIFE.  It reminds me of my little girls as well.  Girls that blended in so well that while they looked like the odd one out with their friends, they felt as if they belonged.  Or very nearly.

Being a TCK means that you have a passport culture, the culture of your parents, but it is not your culture because you really aren't 'from' there.  You grow up in other places which become a good part of who you are, but since you really aren't from there it isn't fully your culture either.  Therefore you are actually a 'third culture', something between worlds that is uniquely your own.

The downside is that you will always be different and while you can adjust you will never TOTALLY fit in anywhere.

The upside is that you have a broadened world view, an ability to adapt to wherever you are, and generally you've had to think about some 'big stuff' of life already and are mature in ways beyond your years.

"You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere.  That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place."
                                 ~Miriam Adeney

"As a TCK we mention places, not because we had the opportunity to be there, but because we left a part of our heart and our soul in the footsteps we left behind."
                          ~Bonnie Rose

I think our kids must be sort of Fourth Culture Kids as well since they've had a Kiwi dad for a while now, too!  

Aaron had the chance to share with his youth group in New Zealand a couple of weeks ago about his life overseas.  While the things he shared seemed normal to him and he didn't overly dramatize them, they were very eye-opening to the teens here!  It gave them just a BIT of a glimpse into who he is on the inside.  

One of the best things about being a TCK (or a Third Culture Adult---which is what I feel like!) is that you don't need to be reminded that:

" ...this world is not our home; we are looking forward to our city in heaven, which is yet to come." (Heb. 13:14)

Because that's where our real home is!  We just aren't there yet.