Have you met my friend and former neighbor in France, Madame Mallet? That’s her on the left. If you read French by Heart, you may remember what a hilarious, complicated character and friend she was to me and my family. This pic was taken during a visit a couple summers ago, when we surprised her and my other neighbor, Madame Fauriaux, with a visit and it took her a minute at her gate to realize who we were- until I started speaking French and she recognized my American accent!
I’ve been thinking about her today. There’s been a lot of talk and action lately about immigration, and it reminded me of a conversation we once had. Actually we talked about this topic a lot.
“All I can say is that this country would be a lot better off if all these people would just go back home where they belong,” Madame Mallet said.
“But Madame Mallet,” I said, “Me too?”
“Well no,” she harrumphed. “I didn’t mean you. I meant all those other people.”
“The ones you don’t know?” I said and smiled a little.
She growled back at me, “Rébecca, I do not know them and I do not wish to know them. I surely do not.”
But she surely knew us. By the end our time in France, she’d spent four years staring at us from behind her lace curtains- and then openly on her balcony- listening to us speak a language she didn’t understand, watching us do our strange American things- playing catch in the yard, walking around barefooted, and laughing loudly. As she watched and listened and talked with us, we became part of her family and she became part of ours. It was hard to make sweeping, unfair generalizations about Americans now that she knew some. Well, she still managed, but it was harder!
She knew we were American. She knew that we celebrated the fourth of July and Thanksgiving’ (doesn’t that have something to do with Buffalo Bill?) she knew Todd had served as an officer in the military and that my maternal grandfather had died in France during World War II and was buried there in a military cemetery up north.
I knew she was proud of being French. She told us stories about her father’s time in the Resistance, about the time she got in trouble in school for standing on a table and singing La Marseillaise during German occupation, and how she worked as a nurse for a while after the war, which was depressing since she had to wear a terribly unstylish British WAC uniform. A French designer would have done a much better job.)
She was proud of being French, and I was proud of being American– and I was also falling in love with our new home. We were happy to be friends. “We’re the two patriots!” she once said, putting her arm around me as we walked.
Would you call yourself a patriot– or patriotic? Most people would. I would.
I also call myself a Christian. Sometimes I do an okay job, and sometimes I don’t, but I try.
Lately I’ve been swept up in a Bible story from Acts that I can’t get out of my mind. It’s the one from Acts 10 about Peter and Cornelius, the centurion. It’s a great story and I’ll probably blog more about it later BECAUSE IT WON’T LEAVE ME ALONE, but at this moment I can’t keep my eyes off verses 34-35:
“Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” Acts 10:34-35
This reminds me that God is not American. (WHAT?! Haha) If God shows no partiality in nations, if God loves and blesses all of us around the world, and accepts the seeking of women and men in other countries, how can we do anything else than believe that they are our brothers and sisters under God? How can we ignore them? How can we look out only for our own interests, no matter how it affects them? How can our own man made borders limit the love and care and concern we have for each other?
I love my country and I wouldn’t want to be a citizen anywhere else, but since my greater allegiance is to God, it’s God’s policies that concern me most at my core. Policies like loving our neighbor, healing the sick, caring for the marginalized, and being good stewards of our earth. It’s the gospel, and I’m going to try to follow it, all while wearing my red, white and blue. You too?