Thursday, September 10, 2009

To Kill a Mockingbird

As I told a friend via email this week, I fell in love with the characters all over again and just cried my little eyes out. What an inspirational piece of writing from a woman, Harper Lee, who "just wrote a simple love story." It makes me want to reach out and give Boo Radley a hug.

If you don't know who Boo Radley is - read the book.

A story of understanding, mis-understanding, education, patience, prejudice, ignorance, compassion, fear, mystery and love. Of apparent injustice because of the color of a man's skin. He said, she said. And tears over human nature.

I find it interesting how I can 'just read a book' and then find myself applying so much of its character to my everyday life. As I explain how 'life' has been going and some recent observations, I will try to tie it all together coherently. Let me know if I succeed or not.

Our family has been in another season of change. That change will continue within the year if plans to move back to the States go forward next Summer (you just never know....). As we head into year 4 in Switzerland, we've found ourselves to be the ones "left behind." Many who started out with us have moved on/back.

Bart has a new team he's working with on the client. Rachel's best friend moved to another part of Switzerland and she's adjusting to middle school plus public transportation. Two of Kendra's best friends have also moved and she has only 2 of her friends from last year in class. I am juggling between 2 schools and a more complex schedule, a Bible study group cut nearly in half (from moves) and making new friends or re-inforcing acquaintances as school-mom friends have moved away. Yes, we still have some wonderful friends here but things are different.

We had Bible study today (studying Esther - its tough being a woman, by Beth Moore) and a topic we did discuss was our separateness from the Swiss. Our group represents the USA, UK, South Africa, S. Korea and Alaska (heehee - that's for S). Employment opportunities came up as the fact exists in this current economic situation that, unless you speak and write nearly perfect German, there is very little for you here. Even if you are capable of doing the job and it has little speaking/writing requirements.

One woman saw an add in the paper where they are looking for "dialect free Swiss German." Now - anyone who has read this blog long enough or knows anything about Switzerland can laugh long and loud at this point. There is no such thing as "dialect free Swiss German." Swiss German is a dialect language - unwritten and spoken differently about every 60 km or so.

Someone declared it illegal discrimination but I beg to differ. There must be discrimination laws in place before it can be called 'illegal' and the laws to this effect in Switzerland are vague and few. Up until approximately 15 years ago, one's position in the largest bank in Switzerland (shall be un-named but is in trouble with the US Tax Court) was commensurate with one's position in the Swiss Army. I know this as the mother of one of Rachel's classmates was given one of the first women management positions approx. 14 years ago.

This language discrimination makes it difficult for anyone who is not Swiss German to get a job. A whole population of Expat spouses, those married to Swiss, hold Swiss passports but are originally from other countries and those who speak Swiss/High German but with an accent find themselves passed over. Just imagine what would happen to our USA economy if we decided that all those who spoke English with an accent were not qualified. Let's make it "dialect free" as well so we need to choose which part of the country people should sound like.

It all comes down to protecting their people and their economy. We know this and it's not a big shock. But an insular economy cannot sustain itself for long - despite what they say out of Geneva (a recent study has now put Switzerland as #1 strongest competitive economy over the USA - it's the chocolate everyone is soothing themselves with).

Not to mention - it keeps us (non-Swiss) separate. It's not always easy living as an outsider. As much as we love it here, we are in a little bubble and we don't always fit in. A recent Zurich newspaper article discussed the difficulty they are having integrating the "auslander Kinder." Does that surprise any of you? It doesn't me. The adults have a hard enough time developing relationships with Auslanders and so their children do too. The girls friends are Swiss/American, UK, American, Canadian, Italian, Dutch, Hebrew, Scottish, French - none are 'just Swiss.' After 3 years, I still have one Swiss friend in the neighborhood. My neighbors are nice but not needing me to be their friend.

I must clarify - I have several other 'Swiss' friends but they are through the school and have lived for long periods outside of Switzerland. Thus, they have lost much of their 'Swiss-ness.'

So as I go about living my life here, I wonder what comes across to the Swiss I do meet? Do I typify their American stereotype (I admit, I do smile waaayyyy too much and sing as I walk) or do I give them something to think about? Do they want to learn from us and change along with the rest of the world or will they cling to their ways?

In "To Kill a Mockingbird", Atticus Finch is fighting a losing battle for a just cause so he can live with himself and someday, his children and others can benefit. Miss Maudie tells his son Jem "I simply want to tell you that there are some men in this world who were born to do our unpleasant jobs for us. Your father's one of them."

I love that. Atticus Finch took the hard road.

There is much we all want out of life. We have been given much already. We all feel a need to connect and be part of a community. Of a family. That's why we get homesick. We are so priviledged to be here but there is sacrifice too. Each person's sacrifice is different. Sometimes we are asked to be in a place that is 'harder' and I wonder what we will do with that experience. With all the lessons we learn.

Matthew 7:12-14 "So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few."

So as we walk our different roads: I pray they are narrow, I pray God will keep us here in these mountains for as long as He wants us to be and I pray there are many Atticus Finch's along the way.


Linds said...

Susan, this is a breathtakingly beautiful post. What you have said is very true, and I suspect that the answer to your question is that they will opt to keep the old ways, and the consequences may not be great.
Change, ironically, is something everyone gets to experience, try as we may to avoid it. It is the stuff of life. And I have no doubt at all that God chooses to change our circumstances in order for us to learn and grow, and experience things we need to know to become who we are born to be. Easy? Never. But interesting - oh yes. I love the way you and Bart have chosen to experience everything you can while you are in Europe - your girls will have such a richness to draw on from their experiences, and they will never lose their memories of this time.

I will be back in Switzerland for a couple of weeks in October. We will get together this time!

Anonymous said...

GMA says "WHEW!"

Susan said...

Just checking in here, instead of getting dinner going. And I'm glad I did. Your way with words continues to bless me, and challenge me, which I appreciate.

This Alaskan thanks you for blogging!