Perhaps not so unique after all…
I don’t remember a time where I have begrudged my MK (missionary kid) upbringing.
In fact, I am pretty sure I gave it rather little thought until I moved to the US. For all intents and purposes I grew up like another French kid. I just happened to be bi-lingual. In fact any marked difference from my school mates came more from the fact that I was a practicing protestant in a world of nominal Catholics and less from the fact of my American origins.
I of course had a distinct advantage being Caucasian growing up in Western Europe. I didn’t stand out in the crowd like my white friends living in Africa or like a red head living in Japan.
Nope. All in all, I was pretty incognito.
The uniqueness of my upbringing only reared its head every four or so years when faced with the ridiculous questions of well-intentioned people like “Which do you like better, France or ‘merica?”. Yeah, let’s try comparing apples and oranges. But even the anecdotes that come with a stateside assignment are treasured memories at this point.
The uniqueness was evident again during my college years. The first time I went to St. Louis with friends they couldn’t get over my excitement to see the arch. “Marc! You used to vacation in Germany and Switzerland and you are excited about a weekend in St. Louis?” Again, I gave it little thought.
I suppose to some degree or another every upbringing is unique in its own way. Mine just happened to involve stamps in my passport and a lifelong fondness for airports.
Today in particular I have been thinking of the number of “Aunts and Uncles” that I feel privileged to be acquainted with. No, there is no biological tie there but the bonds are no less deep because of it. I long scoffed at the idea that “it takes a village to raise a child”. I generally despise clichés. I think it is more accurate to say that it takes a “family” to raise a child. My family happens to have an inordinate amount of people I am not technically related to.
A few years ago my wife and I were looking for a new church community where we could plant roots for our newly formed family. Our first visit intrigued us enough to foster a second. During that second visit the pastor indicated during the sermon that he and his wife were MKs. I felt an elbow dig into my ribs and then a whisper “Of course they are! No wonder you felt comfortable here”. She had heard me say time and again that I could be in a room full of strangers but if I knew they were MKs or missionaries I would feel completely at ease. Now she got to witness it firsthand. While I am sure that a comfort based on shared common experience is not unique to the MK I still prefer to think that we are special that way.
You know…yeah. I think that’s the way I prefer to think of my MK upbringing: not weird, not different, not unique just…special. It’s up to you to decide what you want to read into that.
Marc Gibbs is husband to one, father to three, skeptical of much but friend to many, recklessly hopeful, would be philosopher, but most certainly MK to the end.