Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: South America (02/05/09)
TITLE: The Eyes Have It
By Margaret Gass
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He spoke softly, and with impeccable manners, began to introduce himself to those at the table. I’m sure some thought that he was making a bold move, to sit down at an all-girls table when the other boys gathered together across the room--away from the girls, just as most had done at junior high dances years earlier. It wasn’t. Walter was drawn to my friend, whose long brown hair and olive skin reminded him of a friend back home.
Home was in Sao Paulo, the largest city in Brazil. Though he had no family in the States, he quickly adopted the girls from our floor, and we just as quickly embraced him. Walter, like his eyelashes, was real. He nimbly dribbled an ever-present soccer ball between his feet, but dropped his books and tripped on the stairs just like the rest of us. He liked people, but was rather shy, especially around my friend, upon whom he had a not-so-secret crush. He was humble, but fiercely proud of his Portuguese heritage. He didn’t engage in gossip, but would speak his mind.
That tendency to speak his mind got him into trouble now and then, especially that first quarter, as he learned the subtle differences between our cultures. Walter and I had Speech 111 together. He had never taken a speech class, and was understandably nervous about speaking to strangers as a non-native speaker. It was during this class, however, that those differences became less noticeable. His informative speech was on Brazil, and speaking about his homeland gave him a new sense of confidence. Most of us knew that Brazil was just slightly smaller in area than the U.S.; rich in gold, iron ore, and other minerals; home to the rainforest; and a producer of coffee. More surprising was the knowledge that Brazil also exported things like autos and footwear, and that Rio de Janeiro wasn’t her only big city! His demonstration speech was on soccer, and Walter effortlessly handled the ball as he told us about his idol, Pele.
It was his persuasive speech that got him into trouble. By now we had learned that Walter had a dry sense of humor and were eagerly anticipating his persuasive speech. His topic? “Why Brazilian Girls Are Better Than American Girls.” Some of his reasons were funny: “They speak Portuguese.” Most, however, were less than complimentary. He sealed his fate when his number one reason involved Brazilian girls being topless on the beach. At first, there was a stunned silence in the room, but angry retorts soon broke the silence. I spent our walk back to the dorm trying to explain why the girls weren’t flattered, as he thought they would be.
Walter learned a lesson that day, but so did I. I learned, again, the importance of perspective and the value of seeing things through another’s eyes. I was reminded to listen more than I speak. I was given a chance to model forgiveness and to think about times when I needed to seek forgiveness for my own thoughtless words.
I’m still learning that lesson. Though I still remember my friend whenever I see Brazil’s flag or hear of Sao Paulo, one other image has gradually become the first thing I picture when I think of how our disregard for one another must hurt our Lord. It is that of the statue, CRISTO REDENTOR (Christ the Redeemer) which towers above Rio de Janeiro. The statue figures prominently in Baz Luhrmann’s updated version of ROMEO AND JULIET, and serves as a reminder of how tearing each other apart is not part of His plan. I’m still drawn to a person’s eyes, because I want to see others as He does. I can only do that by looking to Him.
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