What is my culture?


During SST students are required to keep a journal and submit three entries each week.  This is a recent journal entry from Caleb, pictured in the photo on the left:

As I walked to school today I had some extra time to reflect about my experience on the Atlantic coast.  I was thinking about the autonomy law, freedoms, privilege, and priority according to governmental policy.  Furthermore, I pondered how geographical isolation has set the stage for the unique and wonderful development of various cultures and heritages.  After talking with a few men our age from the Miskito community I was amazed and felt proud of them for speaking with us about their culture and for the passion in which they conveyed the importance in preserving their culture and traditions.

This got me thinking about the question, “What is my culture?”  I guess I have never really stopped to reflect on this question, which seems silly.  I love learning about other cultures but have always kind of associated the term ‘culture’ with people who live differently from me.  This was pretty self-centered and extremely naive/ignorant of me to somehow think that ‘culture’ was a term used only for groups of people who were different from me, that somehow I was exempt.  Did I think I lived the ‘normal’ life?

I suddenly found myself trying to define my culture, how I am proud of how I was raised, my heritage, my school, my family, and how my community of friends has constantly influenced me throughout my life.  This afternoon during coyuntura we had a small worship service together as a group with my community in my own culture.  I felt a longing to be back in Goshen in my community there with my own culture.  I have come to find that while living here in another culture I have learned to embrace my own.   I am proud of my friends, family, beliefs and actions and how they help define my culture, just as the Mestizos, Creoles and Miskitos are all proud of their cultures.

I belong to the mainstream Mennonite culture.  I would love to see students and faculty and staff who resonate with the Mennonite culture at Goshen College be assertive and passionate about Mennonite beliefs, embracing our culture wholeheartedly.  As a student I have often taken this culture for granted, not fully appreciating the impact it has on my life.

With this in mind I thought back to Johnny Hodgson’s lecture and the idea that different cultures do not have to bring about either separation or assimilation but a third option that Johnny mentioned is possible: “unity in diversity.”   Therefore, how can my position as a student leader on campus next year help to facilitate this idea of “unity in diversity,” and avoiding the “separation or assimilation” route?  How can I embrace my culture as a Mennonite more fully, being something that I can be proud of and help to maintain with a passion, while being a part of a student body that represents many cultures?  I think these are important questions to continue to reflect on in becoming a global citizen.