A few years ago we bought a large carpet second-hand from an expat family who was leaving the country. This carpet served us well. It covered our entire living room area and was a perfect match to our décor. It softened the noise of the children’s play, to the delight of our downstairs apartment neighbors I am sure! It provided warmth to the floor during the winter months and extra comfort for lounging, especially with young children.
Then I made a discovery … a carpet on the floor is very “non-Chinese.” A few months after purchasing our carpet, I learned that many Chinese, at least in our city, are wary of carpet and what might lurk within the threads, no matter how clean one manages to keep it. And it is true, enter any Chinese home and more often than not a rug or any form of carpet will not be in sight.
Despite this general thought about carpets, my local friends always commented positively about it when they visited, and both they and their children always played happily on our carpet. They often commented on how clean my home was so perhaps this general observation helped them overcome any fears about my carpet (Had they come to my home unannounced they may have had another view of clean!) Or perhaps they were just being polite.
One day, however, something changed …
Not only are there differences between Western and Eastern ways of decorating a home, there are also very different thoughts on health and medicine. One of the children, who regularly came to our home for a playgroup I hosted with neighborhood moms, was having some issues with skin rash for some time. His mom and their doctor were certain it had to do with the carpet in our home.
My then toddler-daughter developed Fifths Disease around this time and had the same spots and rash-like symptoms as this little boy. It is very possible he contracted Fifths Disease from her, but this does not seem to be a known ‘illness’ among Chinese traditional medical personnel. So trying to convince my friend of this medical possibility proved to be somewhat futile. I was not convinced the carpet was the culprit – especially since no one else had any problems for the duration of our having the carpet.
So what lesson did I learn from my carpet?
Well, it was a lesson in humility and love, and preferring someone else above myself. This friend and mom told me, that although she did not want to, she needed to stay away from coming to my home for a little while to test to see if it really was the carpet or not. Perhaps her son’s spots would disappear if he didn’t visit our home as often. She even went so far as to ask if when we moved, which was soon to happen due to our lease expiring, we might consider not having the carpet in our new apartment. I am sure this took a lot of courage on her part, as it was imposing her views and her wishes on my family and me.
My flesh wanted to act defensively, but the Spirit helped me “fight the good fight” and ask, “What would love do?” So, that same evening, my husband and I rolled up our much-loved carpet and set it aside. I told my friend that we had removed the carpet and asked if she would continue bringing her son to our home to play. The next morning, as she was thanking me again for the inconvenience she felt she had caused me, there were tears in her eyes. I told her, “You and your son are more important than the carpet.”
I still don’t think it was the carpet that was causing the skin problem (though I may be wrong!). And I miss having my carpet. But I believe God was pleased by this act of kindness and love.
This story comes to mind often as I make choices between what my flesh wants and what I know He is asking of me. As I reflect back on this story, I am reminded of the old song “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love”. God has not called me to convince anyone about anything. He has called me to love – simply love. I could not help but think of how these daily interactions are what will help my local friends and me grow closer as sisters and neighbors, no matter what our cultural differences and views on life.
In the light of what He is doing … it is only carpet. A small sacrifice.
Where have you experienced a culture clash that involved your home? How did you handle it? I love these stories!