Why Appointments Might Only Be For White People

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When was the last time you went an entire week on campus without a student canceling an appointment with you?

Devin and I were talking about this last semester and came up with a possible solution: maybe appointments are just for white people.

Dr. Sherwood Lingenfelter shares in his book, Ministering Cross-Culturally, that Anglos and Hispanics view time in fundamentally different ways. Anglo culture tends to be more time oriented. The clock rules our day. Time is a commodity that we can spend or save. We say, “Time is money”. Latinos tend to be more event or people oriented. A relationship is more important than a clock. Its part of why their definition of “being late” is different from a Caucasian. The differences between the two cultures can be summed up in a quote I heard from some Cru leaders overseas:

You [Anglo] Americans have so many clocks but never any time. We have so few clocks but all the time in the world.

As two white guys ourselves we were spending a lot of time each week trying to schedule appointments with our student leaders. Trying to have Latino students operate with our sense of time just wasn’t working out. Some would be late, others would forget, many would have more pressing matters cause them to cancel on us.

Our solution: let’s stop making appointments. Let’s start to schedule large chunks of our day as available time to be on campus. We’d go to the library or the cafeteria and just see who we ran into. We’d text a student that we wanted to meet with to see where they were. We’d just start living life like a student, more spontaneous, less planned. In the back of our minds we have discipleship topics to cover, but it would be less formal and more life-on-life.

So will it work out? We don’t know, but Devin is giving it a shot this semester. I think it’s the right move. We’ll probably look back in a few years and wonder why we ever did it any differently.

photo courtesy: wagg66

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Posted on January 25, 2012

About destinoeric

A white guy who believes Latinos will change the world, Destinoeric served with Destino from 2008-2013. You can read more of his posts here or on twitter.

5 Responses to Why Appointments Might Only Be For White People

  1. Stephanie N. says:

    Fabulous. Will love to see how a different approach works!

    • destinoeric says:

      We may be completely wrong in our approach but we figured it was worth a shot. On the other hand the Latino students may look at us and say, “Finally! I never thought you were going to get it!”

  2. Scott Crocker says:

    This really makes sense, Eric. Could we set up a time to talk about it? :)

  3. Roberto says:

    While your take on appointments not being so rigid in the Hispanic context is correct. I think your statement that appointments might be only for white people is just continuing a stereotype that Hispanics live unstructured lives. This is not the case. I am a Hispanic and know a lot of them that keep and value appointments.  While we don’t live by the minute, we do seek to have a structure in our lives.

    • destinoeric says:

      Roberto,

      Thanks for the response. I agree with you, Hispanics use appointments and varying degrees of structure in their lives. (Even within what we would call “Hispanic” there is so much variation). I stated the title strongly so that it would cause people to think, but probably over reached with it.

      I wonder how much the fact that we work with college students plays into this post as well. College students in general tend to live less structured lives. If you combine that with the Hispanic value for relationship or event orientation over time orientation you could see the differences even more pronounced.

      What do you think?