Like many Canadians, I’m proud to be from the true North, strong and free.
However, in years past, my national pride has been a stumbling block and hurtful to many American friends and colleagues. Now that I have somewhat matured, I can look back and see where my struggles began, and how a lot of it was based in my own insecurities.
I grew up in the border town of Sarnia, Ontario; across from Port Huron, Michigan. To anyone who as ever lived in a town like this, you understand the unique relationship that develops with the people on the other side of the border.
As a teenager, each weekend I often felt like our city was being invaded. Of course, this was only because it was the nineties and the Canadian dollar was in the tank. Throughout the eighties, Canadians including my family, equally flooded over State-side, to get cheap groceries and fuel. Regardless, like I said, it was the nineties, I was a teenager and I didn’t like it.
Almost every Friday night, Americans would drive the Blue Water Bridge (singular back then), over the St. Clair River. They come for shopping or a night on the town, and it was fairly easy to pick them out.
Late nights were the worst. After a night at the bar, enjoying Canada’s decreased drinking age, many tipsy American fellas would flood into fast food joints before heading back over the border. It used to make my blood boil as they acted like they owned the place, hitting on the girls behind the counter, then mocking their accent when they were rejected.
Typically, 3 or 4 of them would sprawl themselves out over tables designed to seat 6 to 8. Like I said, they were usually drunk, so any comment of correction to these behaviours from us, a group of teens younger than them, usually didn’t go over well.
So I sat and stewed, vowing to stay clear of anyone and anything American for the rest of life.
Well, except American TV and movies. Oh, and American clothes and products. Oh, and I might have made frequent trips to Detroit, whenever our favourite bands were playing there. Other than that, nothing American.
My vow was so ridiculous and I was so ignorant.
God always seems to hear our vows loud and clear; even if we’re just thinking and nothing’s actually coming out of our mouths. We vow not to do something or not to go somewhere, but it’s fleeting because He’s listening. And His reply always seems to be the same. “Oh really? We’ll just have to see how that vow turns out.“
By the time I got into my first year of college, I tried to hide my hurtful thoughts on Americans. So much so, that I actually conceded to having an American roommate from Buffalo, New York. For the most part, I pulled off the con that year; but it would end up progressing, as all sinful things do.
I would save my opinions for when the Americans weren’t around. Then I was just down right hurtful.
It was during that first year of college that it happened. God gave His first, yet impactful blow against my arrogant heart. This blow would be a vital piece to His purposed plan for my life and ministry.
I fell in love with an American.
For the first part of the school year I had ignored her. Then one night in the library, I realised that we were the only two there. To ease my boredom, I started up a conversation with her. The initial 5 minutes turned into hours as this quiet, wall-flower Alaskan girl, captivated me; bucking every American stereotype that I had ever accepted.
She was amazing and I was smitten.
Meeting Nicole would be the first step in breaking down my sinful pride, that was so carefully disguised as national pride. God had a purpose for my life and knew what would be needed to get me aligned with His plan.
By the way, as a teenager I had also vowed to never marry an American girl. Considering that Nicole and I just celebrating 12 years of marriage; I’m pretty sure God heard that vow too!
To all my American friends and relatives, please forgive me for any hurtful comments that I ever made. I was a foolish young man, who allowed a few negative experiences set an unrealistic view of an entire nation. After years of God’s work on my heart and the opportunity of serving State-side for 4 years; I am now so thankful that you are our neighbours.
How have you experienced national pride become something hurtful or damaging?