Children have the most peculiar way to embarrass their parents. Our children are no different. Anybody who knows us will know that we are trying to raise children who respect and treat all people the same. South Africa needs a generation which does not discriminate, especially when it comes to inter-racial relationships. But today our little Matthew became aware of race and made his observations known in the most inopportune moment: in the shops.
We were walking down the sweets isle, and came to a stop very close to an Indian lady and her son. Matthew looked up and at the top of his voice said: "Hey pappa, those people have brown skins!". He meant it very innocently, but I know that those words could be interpreted in a different way which causes pain. I didn't know what to do. I wanted to just turn around and walk away, but decided not to. I turned to the lady and her son who were chuckling away at my son's boldness and apologized vehemently. I tried to explain that we try to raise our children in such away that race should not be an issue. They both reacted very graciously, acknowledging that he is learning and that this was a discovery. They also hinted that we should take him out more often so that he can see more people from a different cultural background. I wasn't going to debate that point, but all too humbly made the best of the situation.
I later explained to Matt that this "pointing out people's skin colour" is not polite, in fact, although true, some things remain better unsaid.
I still feel nervous about the whole incident. Please share your stories of embarrassing moments to help me through this one. I have learnt a lesson though. Communication is complex. What we say and where we say it may mean different things to different people. The hearers' own perception also aids towards their interpretation of the spoken word. This will make me ever more vigilant in sermon preparation, because good communication is the ability to convey a message where the interpretation of the message correlates with the intent and focus of the sender's conveyed thoughts.