concerning being a CanDoo in an Other Culture . . .
The other night I was praying. I was facing some pretty tough issues that I hoped would go away . . . and I offered God money.
You are saying to yourself, “Seriously!?”
It’s true, no lie– and that’s the answer I heard in quick reply, “Seriously!?” What kind of fool am I? I tried to give God what He already owns—and an extremely tiny portion of it. I am glad I wasn’t struck dead immediately.
For a few years we lived in an Indian-Pakistani section of London – about 95+% Indian-Pakistani, including some Somalis and Afghans – Muslims, Sikhs, and Hindus. I was walking down my neighborhood street one day – this is after a couple years there – and I thought to myself, “These people really don’t like me. I don’t look or think like them. My core values and religion aren’t theirs. I probably make them really angry talking about Jesus.” I started to feel very unsafe. Then I began to think, “But I have the US Embassy. I could go there. And I have credit cards. And I started to list to myself the credit cards that were in my back pocket. I thought, “With those available to me right now, I can go get on a plane and just fly away.” I have ways to fix this if it really becomes a problem.
I am a CanDoo. And my guess is that you also are a CanDoo.
About 15 years ago, my missionary friend was locked up in an Asian prison. These are not nice places, and there was a lot of ambiguity about his sentence and how long he would be in there. I was in the US explaining this to a wealthy friend, who said, “Well, let’s go get him.” I looked confused and said, “What do you mean?” And he said (and I quote) “We’ll just get some guys and some helicopters, and go get him.” (He was talking mercenaries.) My wealthy friend is definitely a CanDoo. He’s got money and he CAN DO lots based on whatever that money will buy.
I visited an elementary school on the edge of the desert in West Africa, in Senegal. Because I used to be a public educator, a sort of expert in literacy and learning, I was very interested in what this Christian school with a majority Muslim population had going. I watched for a couple of days and made friends with the school’s Director. Then I said, “Here is what you CAN DO if you want these kids to learn better.” I was nice about it, but I just couldn’t help myself. I am a CanDoo.
I’m a pretty good observer. I’m a pretty good analyst. I was taught that way. I see most of the sides of an issue. I find root causes for problems. I think about solutions. And I project outcomes given a choice among various solutions. All this can go on in my head, and sometimes I can hold my tongue and not say anything, but usually I break my silence. I like my ideas. I have an idea, and I break my silence and suggest a direction, offer a proposal, point out a weakness, or talk about a better way. Essentially I say, “Look, this can be fixed. Here’s how.”
I am a CanDoo, and I know we can find a way to do this thing. Let’s roll.
There is something biblical about this. When I read my Bible, I saw what Paul did. I see Peter change and get it right. I see Moses become The Man. The Christians have got it and they are going somewhere; they can turn the world upside down.
When I read for relaxation, I read biographies about the founding fathers – this mix of a handful of very unique men, each different from the other, who managed to collaborate and lead a revolution that has led to the world’s most powerful nation. I grew up watching the first astronauts and all the subsequent movies about how they made it. Against gravity and malfunctions, a team of men conquered space and made it back alive. They were CanDoo’s.
When I watch TV, I enjoy seeing a crime solved in an hour, or even a problem in a sitcom resolved in half an hour. Even if a new difficulty is introduced to whet my appetite for the next episode, there’s a problem and a resolution, or at least some progress has been made. I expect progress.
This is how I have learned to see the world. It’s why I am speaking to you. We Can Do this. We can improve how we do things.
However, it’s a fact that many people, most people in the world, the majority, are not CanDoo’s. This raises a couple of questions:
- Can we CanDoo’s get along with them? “Of course we can,” we think.
- “Will they value us? Why wouldn’t they?” we say to ourselves. “We CanDoo’s can help.”
But if they are not CanDoo’s, what are they? How do THEY think about the world? What do they want to accomplish in life? Maybe, they don’t think about the world in terms of accomplishing anything. Maybe they think more about their relationship to past generations than about what is about to happen, about what’s coming next:
“Why solve a problem? Why plan for the future,” they say, “since we belong to what we have inherited. Our fathers have made us what we are. And we count on that. We cherish that and want to retain it.”
“Problems,” they say, “-there have always been and will always be problems. Only God knows, and we are subject to whatever God brings along. Each day has enough worries of its own.”
But me? I am a CanDoo:
Born to get something done. Born to make the future a little brighter.
THEY seem quite different. They are different. (At least until I get hold of them.)