Melanie, I too struggle with missing “those big pieces.” I do not want to offend somebody and miss the opportunity to provide care for them. I have found a simple introduction with a smile works for me – “Hi, I’m Mike the Chaplain here and I came by to see how you are doing and if I may help you in any way.” From there, I leave myself open to hear their story if they invite me to stay. This is tough when there is a language barrier.
Sometimes I wonder if I am being over conscious to show people I am trying not to be offensive – that I am wanting have a relationship and learn about them. When I have been at gatherings where people from other cultures (people different from me) are the majority, I have felt a genuine care and respect for me “the outsider.” I hope I give people the same feeling. For me, if we begin with treating each other with human decency, the rest will work out.
I agree Jose, “respect goes so much further than getting it perfect”. For me, trying shows a willingness to learn and have a relationship. I have only been to Costa Rica and London out side the U.S. and have found people in both places to be more respectful and gracious than Americans.