Where did you come from?

I’m moving.  Not really soon.  But soon.  Sometime this summer.  So in preparation for the move, I met with my two wonderful real estate agents who did a walk through in my house and made some recommendations so as to get top dollar for my house before buying the next house.  For those who are readers from my church, please don’t freak – I’m not leaving Emmanuel, just changing my house address.  No worries.

Kerry and Dayna, my real estate agents, brought with them their handyman, Sauli, who noted the recommended tasks:  caulk here, caulk there, touch up some of  the paint, paint the kitchen cabinets white, switch out the aged black speckled Corian counter top with white marbled looking granite, and replace a few aged bedroom blinds.  That was pretty much it.

Sauli and his team did a fantastic job.  When it came time for the granite to be installed, Nagi brought with him George, who is his plumber.  While George was working I asked him where he had come from, to which he replied, “Mongolia,” that “his parents had emigrated here some years ago and he came with them when he was a child.”  I thanked George for sharing that.  And then I said, “I meant now; where did you come from, now?  Before you got here to my house, where did you drive from?” to which George responded, “Oh, Dulles.  Out near Loudoun County.  Dulles!”  We both laughed.  I wasn’t asking for George’s ethnicity; I was sensitive to how far he may have just driven in order to help us get the plumbing job done at my house.

I confess that when I asked George where he had come from, things got a little awkward.  All of a sudden my small 1950s kitchen felt just a tad bit smaller, as if that’s even possible!  Something shifted in the room.  I felt it.  Unfortunately I think George felt it too.  I think even Londi felt it and Lord only knows where Londi is from. I didn’t ask him, as I didn’t ask where Sauli or Nagi are from.  I wasn’t asking George where his “people” are from either.  I realize that as a perfect stranger to George, he had no idea why I was asking my question.  The next time I ask such a question, I will be more specific; for example, along the lines of: “Thank you for coming to my house; were you close by or did you travel some distance to get here?”  More to the point.

All of this said, sometimes I am curious about another person’s ancestry and I have learned that my curiosity doesn’t always give me the license to ask such questions.  The best way to find out about another person’s ethnicity is to let them volunteer that information themselves.  There’s nothing wrong with being curious; that’s perfectly fine but just be aware that how and when we ask such a question has an impact on the other person, and we don’t want to unintentionally come across as “other-izing.”  If and when we have a truly authentic relationship with another person, the topic of someone’s ancestry may naturally come up in conversation and by then we will have created a real friendship where such shared information is more natural and appropriate.

When I get to my new neighborhood and folks there ask me where I am from, I plan to respond, “I just moved from Alexandria and I was born and raised near here in Springfield, Virginia.”  I won’t tell them my people are from Ireland.  They’re probably not asking that question, right?  Lol.

The last thing we want is to come across like this guy:

In the end, we have all come from God.  We’re all children of God.  We’re all sisters and brothers of the One True God.  And how beautiful is all of God’s creation.

Peace friends,

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Categories: Ministry


  • Danielle Klorig says:

    Great blog! Video too funny. Thanks for sending.

  • Chris says:

    Love your column this week! I see both sides and appreciate your gentle reminder: We are all God’s children. Next time someone asks me where I am from, I wonder if I have the courage to say “From God!”


  • Kathy says:

    oh my gosh I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry! The scary thing is…this happens! I remember years ago being in Cancun – got onto an elevator and this guys remarks “I’ll be so glad when I get home where people speak English! Why don’t the people speak English?” I almost decked him…

  • Julie Testa says:

    Great piece. Wonderful thoughts. As a friend from
    another country told me, “I love telling the story of how
    my family got here but when someone asks,
    I am reminded that I probably look different and
    having lived here my whole life,I done feel

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