Immigration is Tough

I took a couple of days vacation this week, so I’m also taking a short cut with this blog post. I recently came across this article on ESPN that describes the challenges confronting Latin American baseball players who’ve been raised in poverty when they move to the US.

“Let’s cut Yasiel Puig some slack”

Yasiel Puig is a star player for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Puig was born and raised in Cuba. He defected from Cuba in 2012 and shortly after signed a multimillion dollar contract with the Dodgers.

Yasiel PuigIn June 2013 Puig made his major league debut. Since then he has seemingly made a habit of attracting controversy and criticism. Off the field he’s twice been arrested for driving 40-50+ mph over the speed limit. On the field he’s been criticised for some of his decisions and effort. His attitude toward the media  has also lacked cooperation at  times leading to more criticism.

If you’re an American member of the media, or coaching staff, or fan, you look at his behaviour and evaluate it based upon standards and social expectations with which you’re familiar. In this article Dan Le Batard does a good job of explaining all the adjustments Puig, and other Latin American players, go through when they find instant wealth in a new country.

I share this article here as a reminder that many industries have to work through the cultural challenges that arise in a multicultural environment. Churches can learn from these businesses and industries. Over time Puig will undoubtedly become more familiar with American expectations and customs, but in the meantime he will continue to fumble his way through social situations and probably offend some people as well.

This article reminds me that often we know very little of what’s going on in  a person’s life that motivates their behaviours and attitudes. We need to  exercise care not to simply criticise behaviours without making and effort to understand what’s going on int he bigger picture of their life.

I remember an elderly lady in my home church who emigrated from Germany after World War II. Fairly regularly she would drop an expletive into a conversation. She was a wonderful Christian so this always seemed very strange. One day I learned that her husband had been killed by the Nazis and she’d emigrated on her own. She’d found work wherever she could get it and worked in the fields harvesting crops for many years. In that environment she was exposed to a lot of course language at the same time she was learning English. She simply didn’t have anyone in her life to help her navigate the social acceptance of particular words. Knowing that back story really helped to understand conversations I’d had with her!

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