I am only two days into an extended time away from easy access to the internet, familiar streets, and English. In a way, it is far from unusual, however it seems different. For now, I am bathed in German. I am anticipating being consumed by Italian tomorrow after a brief splash of French. As I play tour guide for good friend, I am struck by the sense of being an outsider.
What would make me feel more at home? It is an interesting question because at the end of the day the answer is the same – people. I have met some wonderful individuals during this journey. From smiling strangers to helpful waiters, from police that ignore my bad driving to individuals that reach beyond their language, I do believe that I am welcome. I would love to say that I am part of the local fabric, yet I know I am an outsider.
I see where outsiders are being sent home in times of economic crisis. I hear how those holding different views are treated as strangers in their communities. I see how color, language, and heritage create natural walls.
I also see hope in how those that have no reason to reach across the divide, do. I find strength when generations reach to the other with respect and interest. It is an old model that we would do well to embrace in fresh ways. When “James broke the silence. ‘Friends, listen. Simeon has told us the story of how God at the very outset made sure that racial outsiders were included.’” (Acts 15.13, 14) It was an invitation that extends through today.
Today will bring more unknown. I will listen with the intent of learning. I know I will miss most of the details of the conversations. I will offer respect to the ways of those extending kindness to a stranger. I am a stranger in a strange land, thankful for the kindness and courtesies offered by strangers.
It would be wise to do this always, even when I think it is not necessary.
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