A few week’s ago a Painting Picture post came from an MK, a military kid. Today’s post comes from another MK, a missionary kid. I am raising DWKs (I guess?), development worker kids. And in the future we’ll hear from business kids and diplomat kids and more. I adore this about the series, the way it brings diverse people together and gets us talking, one of my major blogging goals. Ruth’s post today is a moving tribute to one of the pioneers in the TCK conversation. Through working together we discovered a common friend, on a third continent. And there also, is something I love about the series and TCKs and being an expat. Sometimes we feel alone and then between Haiti, Uzbekistan, and Djibouti there comes a link and we aren’t alone anymore.
Tribute to a Pioneer
We almost didn’t go to the session. I don’t remember what the alternative was, but I know we hesitated, my newlywed husband and I, dazed by all the options at Urbana 90. We had come to find the world and hadn’t been disappointed. There were speakers from several continents and every international Christian organization you could name was there, recruiting. Ever since we’d started dating after getting to know each other at an MK Fellowship event at Asbury College, we’d known that we wouldn’t spend our lives in the United States. We wanted to go somewhere else. There was a whole world out there. We knew that from experience; he’d grown up in Japan and I in Kenya.
We couldn’t resist this particular session, billed as an MK Meetup, and turned aside from whatever enticing international smorgasbord offering was taking place at the same time, and entered a lecture hall full of people. A white-bearded man introduced himself as Dave Pollock and asked people to come to write the name of their school on a white board. Before long the board filled with names of schools from every country you’ve ever heard of and some you probably haven’t.
I don’t remember what Dave said that day, mostly because it was so exciting to be in a room with so many TCKs, some of whom, it turned out, we knew. (That tends to happen when TCKs get together – you always have a person or place in common, even if you don’t know each other.) I do know that I learned that term that day: TCK. That’s what we were, Dave told us, Third Culture Kids. I have Dave’s book in front of me as I write, and I’m sure what he said was something similar to what he wrote in the introduction: “It is my conviction that being a TCK is not a disease, something from which to recover. It is also not simply okay – it is more than okay. It is a life healthily enriched by this very TCK experience and blessed with significant opportunities for further enrichment.” He always presented himself as a “wannabe TCK,” and even though he recognized the challenges we faced, it was obvious he loved being around TCKs.
Four years later we met Dave again. We had finished graduate school and moved overseas; spent a year teaching at an international school in Haiti and returned to the States for the summer. We did temp jobs and waited to see what would happen with Haiti’s political situation and whether we’d be able to return. A friend of ours worked with international students at a nearby college. She called one day to tell us she thought we’d enjoy a Re-entry Seminar the college was hosting, led by a guy called Dave Pollock. We were working during the day, but drove over that evening.
Our friend was right – the session was life-changing for both of us. Dave quite simply told us who we were. He explained the challenges and the benefits of being TCKs, and in his trademark way, illustrated every point with wonderful stories, collected over the years from hundreds of TCKs. (In time we got into his presentation, too, as he told people about Steve taking me out for sushi to vet me while we were dating.)
When we got back to Haiti, we told our administrators about Dave and his seminar, and eventually he visited Haiti three times and had dinner with us in three different houses. It’s hard to believe I spent as little time with Dave as I did because he became such an important part of our lives. Some examples of his effect on us:
A Haitian-American kid living with us said, “That guy is the first person in my life that ever understood me.”
I was listening to Dave speak in our school chapel when a friend called and said, “Go home and turn on the TV.” I did, in time to see the second plane hit the World Trade Center. Dave was there for our students, helping them process the news.
Dave prayed with us as we grieved a miscarriage. I remember he told God about “the heaviness” we feel, we human beings.
Dave often preached from 2 Peter, saying it was the epistle to TCKs, because it’s written to exiles. I can’t read those five chapters, ever, without thinking of him.
Dave and his wife Betty-Lou sat in our living room as I nursed our second child and they talked about the loss of their own son.
And then on Easter Sunday, 2004, we lost Dave too. He’d been doing a seminar in Vienna, Austria. It was somehow fitting that he was a long way from home.
Even though Dave has been gone a long time now, I still find myself thinking of him in moments of crisis, and wondering what wise words he would have had. After the earthquake in Haiti, when I was evacuated with our two TCKs to the US, while my husband stayed behind, I thought of Dave again and again.
It’s hard to narrow down what Dave did for those of us TCKs who grew up before all the variety of help there is now, the understanding, the seminars. Dave was the pioneer. For so many of us, he was the first one who helped us find our name. We could accept being TCKs as a rich gift, while at the same time acknowledging the losses it had brought us. Dave used to say the Great Commission went hand in hand with the Great Commandment. God wanted us to go into all the world, but He also wanted us to love one another, to care for one another. Dave cared for us TCKs. I loved him and I won’t ever forget him.
Third Culture Kids, the book, by David Pollock and Ruth Van Reken
Educated in four countries (Kenya, England, the United States, and France), Ruth Bowen Hersey is a TCK married to a TCK (from Japan) and raising two TCKs. She teaches 7th and 8th graders at Quisqueya Christian School in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where she has lived for 17 years. She blogs, mostly about books and poetry, at thereisnosuchthingasagodforsak
Love.love this tribute. I think where I began to cry was the end where you say “It’s hard to narrow down what Dave did for those of us TCKs who grew up before all the variety of help there is now, the understanding, the seminars. Dave was the pioneer. For so many of us, he was the first one who helped us find our name. We could accept being TCKs as a rich gift, while at the same time acknowledging the losses it had brought us.” Sorry for reposting all of this in the comment….but I have a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. Yes…that’s it. Thank you.
It is hard for us younger expats and new TCKs to fully appreciate what it was like to get this conversation started. I’m so grateful for the wisdom of those who have gone before.
Thank you, Marilyn. I loved your post today.
I admit always being a bit envious of TCKs, especially after knowing a few of them and how wonderfully wise and kind and rich these friends of mine are to me. They have much to give to the world.
This is so lovely and affirming. My guess is that your TCK friends need and love you very much.
Speaking for this TCK friend of Jess, yes we do!
Beautiful Jess. I agree with Marilyn.
[…] Today in her Painting Pictures series on Third Culture Kids, Rachel Pieh Jones features a tribute to Dave written by an adult third culture kid. It moved me deeply as I thought about this man who cared to find out more of what went into the life of the third culture kid, cared enough that he made it his life’s work. I urge you to head over to Djibouti Jones to read Tribute to a Pioneer. […]
I always treasure my encounters with Dave Pollock, especially the two hours I spent in the Japanese bath with him.
Ha! That’s great!
Dave Pollard’s son Michael did a lot of good work with TCK’s while he lived in China. He was a key player in the spiritual development of our teen TCK. He is a great reflection of his father.
I love hearing that Sandy, what a great legacy he left, both to/in his son and for so many others.
Another great series, Rachel. Thanks to all who contribute. Just want to clarify one thing. At the end of the blog when the TCK book is mentioned it says “by Dave and Ruth Van Reken”. It happens that my husband is also a Dave and so for any who read this and assume that the Dave mentioned there is Dave VanReken and not Dave Pollock, please know my Dave isn’t my co-author but Dave Pollock definitely is. This is a mixup that has happened at times over the years so I like to keep this all straight! But you are write, he was a life changer for us all and a huge loss to us all when he died. He is also a great example of the impact one person can have on the world when he or she follows their calling and vision one step at a time. Thanks again for the blogs and this tribute to Dave Pollock.
Thanks for noticing that about the names Ruth, I went in and edited it to clarify. I can see how that would get confusing!
Hi Ruth! Thanks for clarifying. I hope to meet you some day, too! I don’t know if you remember that we had some email correspondence in the early 90s about your book.
[…] a few months of dating seriously I had the opportunity to attend a few TCK seminars led by the late David Pollock. I decided to attend them all when Uwe informed me that through David’s stories I’d really […]