Several years ago I had a “living parable” experience in Lhasa. A modern day Luke 15 tale, so to speak.

It all started when I wore a necklace on the day I flew to Lhasa that my dear Scottish friend Nancy had given me for my 40th birthday. In my hotel room I took it off and set in on a desk, going about my business for several days. Thursday evening when I got back to my room something just seemed a bit out of place and then it clicked that the necklace was gone.


I was fairly certain it had been there and searched everywhere like the woman searching for her coin, but I couldn’t find it. To directly accuse someone of stealing is a very serious thing and can lead to such loss of face that the truth won’t come out.

As I thought and prayed about how to respond, I had peace that whatever would happen would be OK. It was “only” a necklace and if it was gone, it was gone. But it also had sentimental value to me, so I didn’t want to do nothing. Friday morning I went to the front desk and explained that my necklace was missing and I had looked and couldn’t find it. Pause. If the girl who cleaned my room happened to find it, I’d be very, very happy.

The the gal working the desk opened her eyes wider and wider as she nodded, understanding my meaning without anyone losing face and the S word (stolen) never needing to be said. As I left, I enjoyed the feeling that I have finally, after 16 years, figured out how to do something indirectly!

Opening the door that evening I didn’t know what I’d find. There in the middle of the desk where I had left it

was my necklace.

That which was lost had been found. A coin, a sheep, two brothers, and now a necklace. Lost but not forgotten. Lost but still loved. Lost and trusted to the One who cares as only the one who creates can.

The next morning when I checked out I left a tip for the girl who found it — as yet another indirect way to find out if she had been fired. The same woman from the day before asked me if it was the short or fat girl who cleaned my room, assuring me they both still have their jobs.

Mine, first at the hand of a friend, second after learning how to be indirect. Once lost, but now found! Rejoice with me!

Categories: China, Cross cultural, Faith



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  1. Christiane August 8, 2012 at 7:14 am - Reply

    Absolutely love your little parable of the “lost necklace” with all its cultural and other dimensions; not to mention that I felt a little ‘homesick’ reading that it happened in Lhasa.

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      Amy August 8, 2012 at 9:11 am - Reply

      Thanks Christiane … would love to be able to sit down with you in the Summit Cafe and just chat :)

  2. Amy L Sullivan August 8, 2012 at 7:46 am - Reply

    Okay, I think this is the second or third time we both wrote about similar things…ha!

    I am so sorry I missed you in CO! Dusti texted me “You want to meet Amy Young?” and I was like YES, but I was suppossed to be in Boulder for wedding duties an hour ago.

    We were seriously like a block from each other! Next time.

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      Amy August 8, 2012 at 9:14 am - Reply

      UGH and yea! Yes, yes, yes to next time!

  3. […] nice parable from “The Messy Middle” on how this expat learned indirectness, a common cultural trait of some Asian […]

  4. Kim August 10, 2012 at 4:03 am - Reply

    Amy, It is an amazing revelation when we realize that we can be such direct line thinkers. In my experience, women are much less inclined to direct line thinking than men. As a man, I know my first reaction might be to head straight down to the front desk and not only use but shout the “s” word. It comes so natural to accuse and place blame. Hopefully, I have learned better to exercise the spiritual gift of self-control. Blessings to you, Amy. I came over from LLBarkat’s Seedlings site.

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      Amy August 10, 2012 at 5:55 am - Reply

      Thanks Kim! It took all I had not to march down :). China has helped to slow me down and make me think through my actions more than I did before, that’s for sure!

  5. Joe Pote August 13, 2012 at 4:20 am - Reply

    Bravo! Great job handling the situation. I love your indirect inquiry approach.

    I seldom demonstrate that much tact…

    Good for you!

    And isn’t it awesome that the person who took it was able to make it right without shame, embarassment, or loss of job!?

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      Amy August 13, 2012 at 6:25 am - Reply

      It is … in an odd way, it’s one of the proudest moments of my China life!

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