Culture Shock # 3: You Don't Have to Go Far...

As many of you know, I live and work in Armenia.

When I am back in the US, I meet several people who are surprised by what I do. I can tell by the look in their eyes, that they don't really know where Armenia is located on the globe, but they know it sounds like a developing nation.

"Wow. You work in ARMENIA! Thanks for going over there and helping out!"

Armenia. Yes, it certainly is not as blessed, financially, as America is. They are also not blessed with as much possibility as Americans are.

Some people live in abandoned shipping containers left after the 1988 earthquake.

Some people live in villages with no running water and outhouses.

The average income, nation-wide, may be around $300 a month.

There are A LOT of needy people.

But, this week, while riding the subway in Chicago, I was reminded that great need is not only found outside the borders of America.

I observed this 50 year old African American man step on to the train. He had a beard, earrings, wore an Obama hat, and had some wild clothing on - jeans and a coat made up of neon colored pieces of fabric that made outfit look like one huge quilt of cartoon charatecrs and spray-painted lewd remarks.

His wife entered a few seconds after him. She was a Caucasian female, overweight, with long straggly hair streaked with grey. She had an identical outfit, hat, and hot pink socks stuffed into silver ballet flats.

I noticed he stood up, and she sat down in another part of the train. He got off without telling her, and she scrambled to get out of the door before it closed shut.

He sped ahead of her through the underground hallways, and she was fighting to keep up behind him. I watched and she looked back at me, somewhat ashamed. There was also a look of fear in her eye - she may lose her husband in this underground maze. So, she would try to run, but couldn't keep it up for long.

They got to the next platform, and he stood near the tracks. Every time she got close to him, he would move far away from her.

How does it feel to be some one's ball and chain? How does it feel to do everything to be loved by someone, to literally even dress like their twin, to be accepted, and yet still feel unloved?

My heart reached out to her. I could see in her eye and on her face - she just wanted to be loved and accepted, and was even running after it.

Yes, people in Armenia don't have all the prosperity of the West. They don't pick their children up from private schools in their Range Rovers. They don't walk into Macy's with a charge card and buy the latest Fall "must have" fashion. They don't always even have indoor plumbing.

But, when you get to the end of your life, does that stuff really matter? What matters is the condition of the soul.

That woman driving her Range Rover, gripping the steering wheel with her Tiffany diamond ring, may feel more lonely, isolated, and abused than the woman in Armenia who walks a mile every day with heavy buckets of water from a well so her children can take a bath.

The woman I saw chasing her husband in the subway with "B***h in Control!" written on the back of her jacket, may feel more out-of-control of her life than the Armenian woman who can only afford to cook potatoes every night for dinner, but goes to bed, every single night, in the loving embrace of a husband who adores her.

These issues of the soul are the TRUE issues that have to be dealt with and healed. Unfortunately, America, prosperity doesn't bring us love. It's deceiving. It appears to. It gives us that "rush" that everything is OK in the world.

But,'s not.

Culture Shock # 3: You don't have to go far to help someone in need. I am in Armenia, but there are great needs in the McMansions, the suburbs, the homeless shelters, and the subways of America.

And, I return to one thing that I've been learning over the last seven years: We truly are all the same. American or Armenian, we all require love. We all need to feel like there's hope. We all have to believe that we are on earth for a purpose.

In a few hours, I board a plane at Chicago O'Hare airport. And, surprisingly, even though I was only in the US for 5 days, I feel ready to go back.

I love the food here. I love the shopping here. I love my home culture. I LOVED surprising my sister for her 30th birthday and spending time with her. But, my husband, my kids, my closest friends all now live on the other side of the world.

America, I love you. But, now it's time to go HOME.

Wherever your HOME is, there are people who need you to reach into their lives.

Notice them. Find a way to brighten there day. Remind them that they are not alone.