Saturday, December 31, 2011

A surprise

Yesterday I got a surprise, I found a couple of lice in my hair.

Now be honest with me, what was your reaction when I said those words.  Disgust? Eww? Thoughts like, “I’m glad she’s not in my house” or “Maybe she should bathe more often” or “I wouldn’t want to touch her.” In the past I am sure that I have had some of these exact thoughts.  I certainly felt a little ashamed when I went to the drugstore to buy stuff to get rid of them.

I was a little nervous about how people would react when I told them I had lice. But I was shocked by how everyone reacted. My friends predictably were teasing me about it, but they still acted normally around me. We still greeted each other with a hug and a kiss on the check, even with the chance of some of my hair touching them. Instead of reactions of disgust from people at church, there were reactions of sympathy as well as sharing of home remedies to get rid of the lice.

Many of the kids I work with have lice right now and there is a good chance that I got it from them. But does this mean I am going to keep my distance from them now, not let them touch my hair? No. Because giving and accepting love from them is far more important to me then the annoyance of a few bugs crawling in my hair.

So here’s to a new year filled with love, and hugs, and laughter, and hopefully no more lice (but if a few come back to visit me then its not the end of the world).

To do or to be?

This past week I was at camp with the kids I work with at the Hogar. It was a fantastic week filled with lots of time at the beach, camp games, and of course a campfire. I was able to deepen my relationships with many of the kids. But as fun as the time with the kids was, one of the highlights for me was the conversations that happened with the other leaders at night after the kids had gone to bed. We would go sit on the beach, look at the stars and the waves and just talk about life.

One of the nights we were talking about the differences between American culture and Uruguayan culture. I described the go, go, go culture that we have. The pressure to always be doing something, that there is always something more or better that you can achieve be it a nicer car, a better job, etc. To not be “doing something” is often seen as lazy, a lack of drive. The Uruguayan in our group couldn’t even comprehend a culture like that. He couldn’t believe that we don’t have times where people just sit around talking or go to the park to hang out for hours.

Uruguay has a culture of being, not doing. When you run into someone you stay and talk for a while, even if there is somewhere you should be. Getting together with friends to “do” something usually means going somewhere like the beach, the park, the roof to sit, drink some mate or cerveza, and just talk for a couple hours. Sitting in the office for an hour or so with some coffee and talking is considered a good use of time. Time spent together with others is deeply valued and rarely seen as a distraction from what “needs” to get done.

This was something that took some getting used to for me. At times I still struggle with it. Feeling like I need to do something instead of just sitting around. Getting frustrated when I am at a meeting or a rehearsal and it seems like it will never end because people are “off topic” and talking about other things instead of focusing on the task at hand. I can feel my little American mind wanting to tell people, “come on, lets get this done first and then talk.” But I don’t say it. Because the relationships that are being built, the life being shared together is so much more important than anything else that we could be doing.

At orientation one of the former YAGMs gave us this piece of advice, “Remember the you are human being not human doings.”  As we transition into a new year full of busyness and doing, I challenge you to find times to just be. Be with family and friends. Be with nature. Be with God. To embrace the joy that is found in being with others and to release yourself from the pressure to get things done. I think you will be surprised by the blessings that can come out of just being.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Hand in Hand

An abbreviated version of my blog A Mate Story was posted on the ELCA Global Mission blog!! I invite you to go check it out as well as sign up for periodic stories and updates from ELCA missionaries around the world (including some of my fellow YAGM).