Monday, October 06, 2008

The Clashing of 2 Cultures or Making a Bigger Deal Out of Nothing?

Last Friday, for the first time since the girls were born, we asked a friend to babysit. There was a big evangelical event going on called the Harvest Crusade and DearHubby and I wanted to attend it.

The event was free, but the seating was first come first serve. Therefore, although the event didn't start until 7:30pm, the doors opened at 6pm so that people could come and find seats. DearHubby and I live about 45 minutes from the event, which meant that we had to leave our house at least by 5:15pm to get to the event when the doors opened. The event wasn't scheduled to end until 9:30pm. What this all means is that we needed to ask this friend to come by at 5pm and stay at least until 11pm. That's 6 hours of her time.

To me, asking this friend to sacrifice this much time was already a lot, but we weren't only asking her for 6 hours, but we were also asking her to supervise our girls too, which potentially meant feeding them dinner, changing them for bedtime, and putting them to bed. For us, those things in itself are all stressful times and to ask this friend to do it by herself was asking a lot.

So to make things easier for my friend, I had the girls fed and changed into their pajamas before she arrived. That way, all she had to do was feed the girls a snack before bedtime, change DearDaughter2's diaper, put DearDaughter1 in a Pull-Up and then go through the challenge of putting them to bed. I knew my friend wouldn't have a problem with DearDaughter2, but with the challenges we've had with DearDaughter1, I knew that she would face a challenge and for that I really wanted to show my friend our appreciation.

Well, after attending this Harvest Crusade event, DearHubby and I were really appreciative for the opportunity to attend it. We were privileged to see hundreds of prayers answered as hundreds of people responded to the call of receiving Jesus Christ. So, on the way home, I wrote my friend a truly heart felt thank you note and then with the thank you note I included $25. DearHubby advised me beforehand that I should give a gift card because he doesn't think my friend would take the money. I didn't listen.

After hearing about her night and before my friend left, I gave her a home made Pumpkin Pie and the envelope, thanking her so much for her sacrifice.

I didn't hear anything from my friend on Saturday.

Then, on Sunday, while DearHubby and I were in the church nursery, my friend stopped by. I thought she came over to say a friendly hello. Instead, she lifts up the envelope that I gave her on Friday and says, "I am not taking this. I volunteered my time and I felt hurt that you gave this to me. I was not hired." I had 5 little toddlers in my arms at the time and could not go to her at the counter to defend myself and so I just responded with "You don't have to be offended." With that comment, my friend walked away.

When church ended, I looked in the envelope and the thank you note was still in there along with the money.

After church, I called this friend up and apologized for hurting her and making her feel like she was hired. I tried to explain to her that DearHubby and I meant well in giving her the money and that it was not a payment, but a true gift to show her how much we really appreciated her sacrifice. She said she understood that we meant well, but then went on to explain that when she does something for her biological sister, she does it without the thought of any monetary compensation. She then continued to explain that because we are sisters in Christ, that is the same way we ought to help one another. She ended her response by saying that when she saw the money in the envelope, all joy was taken away from her.

As she explained that, I agreed with what she was saying and it seemed like the issue was resolved and so we hung up.

Yet, as Sunday evening rolled on and even as this morning came, there was still something bothering me inside. I just couldn't drop the situation with my friend because I felt like I apologized for something I didn't do wrong and I didn't feel like I was able to fully give a defense for my actions and that I was still misunderstood about the money. Every part of my preparation for the girls was in consideration of my friend. We were even invited to go out with some friends afterwards, but in consideration of my friend's time, we declined the invitation and went home. Therefore, we were truly grateful for her sacrifice and our monetary gift was the best way I thought to show our appreciation.

Is this the first instance of my filipino background clashing with the American culture? Although I used to dislike monetary gifts, I now see how monetary gifts are really a thoughtful gesture, and in the filipino culture, a monetary gift is counted just as much a gift, if not more, than an actual object as a gift. Therefore, though my friend understands that our intention for giving her the money was good, I still don't think she understands that the money we gave her was truly a gift and not a payment or monetary compensation for her sacrifice. My feelings were also very hurt that my friend returned the gift in public because it was like I was rejected in public and since the thank you note was still in the envelope I felt that she even rejected our deep and sincere thank you. In the filipino culture, if a monetary gift does not want to be accepted, we return it discreetly, by putting it in the pocket of the coat of the recipient or slipping it in a place where we know they'll find the money. That' s a kind way of saying, "thank you for your generosity in giving us the money, but you do not need to give it and your thoughtfulness says enough."

I spoke with DearHubby about my feelings and we didn't have the best conversation. He thought that I was making a big deal out of nothing and that I should just drop the situation.

Am I just making a big deal out of nothing?

While we were on the phone I asked my friend if I at least can return the thank you note to her. She agreed to that. I was thinking of slipping a little note in there. Should I give her my defense and let her know I was hurt or should I just let the situation go?

It really was a very difficult thing for me to ask this friend to watch our girls and to have conflict over a sincere gift we gave is just really discouraging and this whole situation has really discouraged me from asking anyone to watch our children again. If asking others to watch our children is going to cause such a conflict, I'd rather just avoid the conflict.


Trish D said...

I think cultural background is one element, as well as region of the country. For example, I had no clue what a hostess gift even WAS until I got to college! Anyhoo, it sounds like you both meant well but it ended up being a huge issue. I agree that your friend didn't handle it in the best way by addressing it at church (perhaps she didn't know when she'd see you next, and simply wanted to make sure she returned it to you). I think returning the thank you note is a good first step, and it's not a bad idea to include an additional note reiterating your appreciation. Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ should serve one another out of love, but I don't know of any verse that states, "Thank ye not with gifts one to another."
Anyway, will be praying that this won't affect your friendship in anyway.

e_susan94 said...

I'm sorry this has happened to you. I think giving her a pumpkin pie and thank you note is enough because you know she can not return the pie. I had my sister-in-law babysit for us last week or so for a couple hours and she would never accept money but I always thank and appreciate her and don't use her often. She looks at is as a way to spend time with my boys that she doesn't see often (we go to same church though but different schedules most of the time). Anyway, I can totally understand that you wish she didn't do it at church. I feel the same way that I don't want to burden anyone with my boys especially because they are boys and they are carng for the saftey of them and I really am thankful when we can go out alone. They protected them and kept them safe and so it's only normal for you to want to pay them as if they were a teenager or someone else you would pay to babysit. anyway, I totally understand. I'm up late because I'm making soup for R's class (jacob & Esau lesson) school tomorrow but got a little side-tracked. :)
See you soon.

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