Whenever a police officer walks up to me I automatically think, “What did I do wrong?” This happened to me about two weeks ago in the gallery as I turned on the lights for a tour. All of my decisions from the last 24 hours went through my mind and happily I thought, “I did not do anything wrong. So, why is he here?”
The BYU police officer told me that one of the custodians saw me in the gallery and mistook me for a wandering student. I chuckled and said, “No, I am a gallery educator here at Education in Zion. Have you seen the gallery before?”
He answered that he had only been through the room that contained a photo of his old school. Puzzled, I followed him into a room in the gallery where he pointed to a schoolhouse in Tonga and said, “This was my school or at least this was exactly how my school was built.” He described the special construction of the school: the coconut tree wood beams tied without nails and the roof of branches and leaves that would never leak. Then he showed me the differences between the native clothing of the Tongans, Samoans, Kiwis (from New Zealand), and Polynesians.
His enthusiasm was contagious and I found myself wanting to learn more about the Tongan culture and people. My new friend smiled as I waved goodbye saying, “Come back again!”
As I have reflected on this event, I realized that even in the most unexpected circumstances we can gain an appreciation for cultural education.
Alison Tingey Stewart, Gallery Educator