Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A deprived childhood

When I was in seminary I had a roommate who came from a small town in Wisconsin. Our backgrounds were very different; I was a city girl and she grew up on a farm. I was amazed at the lack of wordly experiences she had been exposed to. Especially for someone who had been through college and was then in her mid-twenties.

Once we went to a movie together, and she told me that she had never been to a movie inside a theatre before. How was that possible? Another time, we had hot-fudge sundaes and she confessed that this was the first sundae she had ever eaten. This boggled my mind. Now, if she had grown on another planet, or even in another country, I could understand it. But she grew up in Wisconsin, for crying out loud -- a place that I had always considered to be part of the civilized world.
I started to feel superior to her. I had done so many things that she had never experienced and concluded that the poor thing had led a sheltered life and she was pretty clueless about what really mattered. 

On the day she told me she had never played mini-golf before, I couldn’t stand it any longer. “Are you serious? You’ve never played mini-golf?”
“Never.” She told me.

“Surely people in Wisconsin play mini-golf.”
“Not in the town I came from. We would have had to drive a hundred miles to do something like that and it wasn’t that important to me.”

“Well, you led a deprived childhood,” I told her. I said it light-heartedly, like it was a joke, but we both knew I wasn’t joking.
“Let me ask you something,” she said. “Have you ever walked into a barn where the floor is completely covered with fuzzy, yellow baby chicks, all peeping at once?”

Of course, she knew the answer to that. “No.”
“Well then, you led a deprived childhood,” she said.

This conversation happened decades ago and I still remember it from time to time: whenever I begin to feel superior to those whose experience doesn’t match my own, whenever I measure what matters through the lens of my own myopic perspective, whenever I’m reminded that those I think I have so much to teach actually have more to teach me.
Yeah, I’ve been to lots of indoor movies, and I’ve played mini-golf, and I’ve eaten more hot-fudge sundaes than I should have. But I’ve yet to walk into a barn carpeted in newborn chicks. And a part of me still feels that I’ve been deprived.


Anonymous said...

What really matters?

John Bateson said...

I guess that means I've been a part of both worlds, since I've been in a barn with baby chicks, and I managed to have a hot fudge sundae. Does that make be feel superior to both of you? No, because there are so many other experiences I would like to have, such as playing the organ at Sint Bavo's Kerk in Haarlem, NL. Or a nice long train ride to the West Coast during whale watching season. Granted, these things may not be on everyone's bucket list. But what hurts is the fact I know of these things, but have yet to experience them. Pray God that I may, or if not, that God's wisdom is greater than mine.

Stacy said...

What a lovely, simple reminder to be humble.