Back in third or fourth grade, my teacher Mrs. Skidmore came into class bawling. Not crying. Bawling. She was pouring every last emotion she had into every last tear (there were many) and every last sob (there were many). To my classmates (and to an extent me) found this distressing. Why was Mrs. Skidmore bawling? Was she okay? Were we okay? None of us had seen our teacher more emotional than “Steve, stop talking! Put your head on your desk for five minutes!” (this happened a lot… a LOT).

Mrs. Blankenship, our principal, came into the classroom soon enough, and Mrs. Skidmore reined in her grief well enough that she could explain to us why she was so distraught.

We were coming back from the Christmas break, and as it happens Mrs. Skidmore went out of town with her husband for the holidays. Before leaving, she had arranged with the German family next door – they were from Germany, not merely of German descent – to take care of her fuzzy, lovable pet bunny rabbit. She had asked her neighbors to bunny-sit while she was out of town.

On arriving home, she went next door to retrieve her fuzzy, lovable pet bunny rabbit… only to find the German family had eaten her rabbit for their Christmas meal.

Dude. That sucks. And I’d be bawling, too. In fact, I’m tearing up a bit right now thinking about it. I may just squirt a few tears. Pardon me a moment…

Okay, I’m back. So Mrs. Skidmore arrived home from the holidays very excited to see her fuzzy, lovable pet bunny rabbit who she missed very much. Only to find the family she thought was bunny sitting had instead dined upon her fuzzy, lovable pet bunny rabbit. Dude. That more than sucks. That super sucks.

How did this happen? Where was the communication breakdown? What transpired where “bunny sitting” was misconstrued as a neighborly gesture of a gifted meal?

It’s a cultural competency thing. In Germany, it is not uncommon to give your neighbors an animal for their Christmas meal, and a rabbit is amongst the animals that are often gifted in the spirit of Yuletide cheer. In America, it is not uncommon to ask for a neighbor to watch your pet while you were away for Christmas vacation, and a rabbit is amongst the pets that are often babysat during the Yuletide season.

I’m certain the language barrier came into play, although the most operative part of this misunderstanding comes from two families from two cultures with two Christmas tradition assumptions that so were so very much disparate and clashing. The result was Mrs. Skidmore came home with her husband joyful to see her rabbit and ended up sorrowful in front of our class.

In a reductive fashion, this tale of eaten-bunny cultural misunderstanding hurt Mrs. Skidmore’s feelings. Badly.

And that is the great risk of cultural competency ignorance.

ultural insenstive