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* ANAY! (as in “OURS!” as in “not yours!”)

October 26, 2015

One of the intriguing things about learning another language is discovering some of the ways different languages handle go awaydifferent things. In Malagasy, for example, there are two different ways of how one can say “us” or “ours.” The first is “antsika” which means “all of us (or ours).” In other words, “we” or “ours,” including you. The other way to say “us” or “ours” is “anay” as in “us (or ours), not including you.” In other words, “we” or “ours,” excluding you. So, for example, if you were at a potluck, putting out your jello for everyone to share you could say, “Feel free to have some of our jello.” As in, since it’s on the table with the cover off, while I brought it, feel free to dig in! “Ours” as in “antsika.” Or alternatively, if you were sitting in your brand new SUV with your family talking to your neighbor, you could say, “Yes, it’s ours!” where your neighbor would (or at least should) clearly get the message that while he can look at it, it’s not his to drive. Ever. “Ours” as in “anay!”

Personally, I, like many of you, was raised in a family and in a culture that at least tried to practice “antsika,” the inclusive form of “us” or “ours.” For example, there were many times we had unexpected guests at our dining or supper table. At times this meant more water in the soup or stew, at other times it was, “Don’t eat so much tonight, boys.” Or, when a hurricane roared through town, we, as the entire missionary community who were living near our boarding school, gathered together to help each other dry things out, board things up, replace roofs, etc. Yes, there were limits to this and we didn’t always do the best of it, but it’s what we sought to do. And generally, at least eventually, felt bad about it when we failed at this.

I am increasingly troubled by living in a world that seems more and more to be arguing (and moving towards) “we” and “ours” as “ANAY!” vs. “antsika.” We have gone from the Statue of Libertypoint where what the Statue of Liberty said (“Give me your tired, your poor…”) is what the US meant, to a time now where some would seem to be arguing these days our statue should be a giant wall with a mean looking border guard on top with his or her hands up saying, “Go back home to where you belong!” And not only that, but this overall perspective is being repeated internally in our US culture(s) as well. Indeed we have moved in many cases from “ANAY!” to just plain old “ME” and “MINE” is alive and well. We are increasingly acting like me having just about everything is absolutely not at all connected to so very many having so little or even nothing.

I’m at a point where I wish we had to own up in our language here in the US as to whether when saying “us” or “ours,” we’d have to either use “antsika” or “anay.” This in part as I hear too many folks these days not even being honest about it, implying “antsika” when they’re really meaning “anay.”

Within my own faith perspective, I believe much of it has to do with Jesus’ oh so simple and so very, very complex, even disturbing question, given how I believe we are hard-wired as people, of “And who is your neighbor?” A question I’ve seen folks struggle with in a variety of different countries and cultures. In many cases the problem is, “antsika” doesn’t get out much further than our immediate family. And in some situations, it doesn’t even reach out that far.

But it needs to.

Several weeks ago we watched two Senators from South Carolina who several years ago very publicly indicated they didn’t believe in what they called “big government” or “handouts” and so voted “ANAY!” against emergency funds for New York and other states back then, now plead for this same funding for their own state, as they were facing troubles. “ANAY!” becomes “antsika” when the chips are down. So at a minimum it’s hopefully pragmatic. As in, I need to be supporting you now in your time of trouble, as I may be in need of this same help from you at a later time. It’s one of the amazing things government can help do.

But I believe we’re also called to so much more than that. A whole lot more. From ancient history to the most current of events, our world is full of examples of those who were so focused on “ANAY!” (often eventually becoming “MINE!!”), while they often ended up very wealthy, they died almost alone, in many cases surrounded by all the stuff they’d amassed, none of which they could take with them. And there are also stories of those who moved from having been focused on “ANAY!” to “antsika” as well.Scrooge

So come on folks, we need to not fall into the temptation of moving from “antsika” to “ANAY!” Indeed I believe we’re c(C)alled to do this, no matter in what or whom we believe.

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