This was it! The dream of a lifetime had come true for Harold Hornblower. He had been selected to tour with the Philharmonic symphony for the next two years as the first chair bassoonist.
All through that night his mind replayed the years of preparation, practice and training. Family and friends he would miss over the course of this assignment flashed before his mind’s eye. His fingers fidgeted and his lips trembled, recounting the numerous bassoon techniques he knew would be required. This was it. “THE BIG TIME.”
Symphony headquarters was not exactly what he had expected. His dreams of glamour melted into the reality of split reeds, broken pads, and hours of practice frequently interrupted by clashes of personalities. But, surrounded by so many professionals, each renowned in their field, he was awestruck.
There was, however, a problem. A noise. A deafening thrumming sound, which seemed to be coming from within his own mind, overwhelmed his thoughts, and it would not go away. It resembled the shuffling of cards amplified 1,000 times! What was it? No one else seemed to hear it.
Two months passed. The tour, once a glorified dream, was now just a job. The early excitement had given way to the weariness of travel and the demands of daily performances.
The thrum? It was still there and now even louder, if that were even possible. It was present in everything, all the time. Listening was difficult. Concentration? Next to impossible. The added stress if brought to meeting the demands of “the dream job” was immeasurable.
A year passed. Touring had now become routine. Harry found he was able to enjoy the experience now, even the never-ending travel schedule. He had made many friends and was respected for his mastery of the bassoon.
Though still present, the thrum had become simply an annoyance. It did, however, make itself known from time to time. Temper flare-ups, mood swings, and discouragement, once seemingly non-existent in his life, were now part of each day. He had learned to ignore the thrum, but it was there. Always there.
Living in another culture, for those who do it, is much like what living with “the thrum” was for Harry. No matter how well you adapt to your host culture, it will never be your own. Some things about it will always seem and feel wrong even after you’ve learned to cope with them. This is hard enough for adults, but even harder for children.
Pray for the cross-cultural workers that you know as they deal with “the thrum” in their lives and ministry.
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Is the ‘daily hum drum’ of long-term cross cultural living another word for the ‘thrum’?
The “thrum” could certainly represent the “hum drum” of daily ministry but in writing it we were referring to the cross-cultural stress or “culture shock” most cross-cultural workers experience.