As is mandatory on any Adelaide visit, Arthur and I went to Dumpling King today. On the way back to our car, an indigenous man stopped us to ask for some money. We got to chatting a bit and he asked us where we were from.
We tried to explain the whole we-live-in-Melbourne-but-we’re-from-Adelaide thing but he kept asking about ‘before that’ and ‘back’, looking at Arthur. Eventually we worked out that we was asking about our ethnicity – Arthur has been mistaken as of Italian descent before. Anyway, so I said, “Nah, we’re both Australian from way back.” (Oh, the irony of saying that to an indigenous man!) That seemed to clear things up for him and he told us a little about his family and how they travel from place to place.
What struck us was how important a corporate identity was to this man. We talked about ‘where we came from’ in terms of what city we lived in. Yet, for him, identity was caught up with his ‘people’. I don’t pretend to understand the intricacies of indigenous identity, or even whether this man was representative, but it gave me cause to think of who my ‘people’ are.
It’s easy to identify nationally, “I’m an Australian” or familially, “I’m a Lockery” or “I’m a Davis” but if I stop and think, I’m reminded that my ‘people’ are those who, like me, have been purchased by Jesus’ blood. In seeing how strongly this man identified according to his family, I think there’s something to learn. I belong to a people, and though currently displaced, we look to sharing together in a better country. I wonder how strongly that sense of belonging to the people of God shapes me? If someone asked me where I belonged, or who my ‘people’ are, I wonder if I would ever say that I belong to the people of Jesus?
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.