Tag Archives: comfort

Spanish, Service & Switching Places

301645_10150425046621215_890517333_nA few years ago, when I lived in Spain, I went on a weekend trip to Extremadura, which is basically a lot of desert and a few Roman ruins.  It was a school-sponsored trip, so our accommodations were classed-up considerably from the cheapest (safe) hostel we could find online, which is what we usually went for, to a formal hotel.

I don’t remember the exact problem or what caused it, but I had some kind of trouble with my room key.  Because of it, I couldn’t get in my room.  Exhasperated, tired, and hungry, I complained to the guys from my school who were hanging out in the hallway.  One of them cut me off and impatiently told me to go down to the front desk, “You’re not shy, and you speak Spanish fine.  What’s the problem?”

could speak Spanish, but I only liked to use it around people I knew well.  I knew I didn’t speak it flawlessly, and I was afraid of sounding stupid–especially at the concierge’s desk in a fancy hotel.  I hated that I couldn’t get my thoughts and ideas out exactly right, so most of the time, I didn’t even try.

I’ve barely used the language at all since I returned to the US in the winter of 2011.

But Spanish has been on my mind lately.  I’ve taken to reading el mundo at lunch and started mentally walking through what a phone conversation would be like if a Spanish-speaking person called the church.

To that end, I’ve been waiting, hoping, thinking, planning, praying, but only sortof expecting to use it.

Today, I was talking to a woman at a big, annual church work day in apartment complex that needs some love.  I walked up to her because she was alone, and I like helping people feel part of the group.

We had a comfortable back-and-forth conversation, and eventually she told me about how she usually doesn’t like speaking in English.  She’s afraid she’ll mess up.  I thanked her for her willingness to converse with me, even though it was hard for her.

Then BOOM.  No fear.  No nerves.  No hesitancy.

I started talking to her in Spanish.

My new friend and I talked a little more about our families, and then we went our ways.  But while I was walking away, I realized that what had just happened was really, really good.  I’d voluntarily swapped places with someone who was uncomfortable by putting myself in the vulnerable position.

It was a discovery that became my MO for the rest of the day.  I asked a group of shy, little girls who would barely talk to me to help me with my Spanish, and by the end of the day, I had a long shadow that followed me everywhere.  All we talked about was Disney princesses and jump rope, but sometimes what you talk about matters a lot less than the time you spend together.

I grew-up doing the work day thing.  I know how to get work done, start a party with a bunch of kids, introduce myself to their parents, help make people feel comfortable, and seek Kingdom breakthrough with people who think that God would never do anything here.  It was awesome today, just like it always is.

But doing it in Spanish–woah, that’s new.

As an added appendice to this story–I so seriously should have gotten in an accident on the way home.  I didn’t see past Shirley’s head in the passenger seat and attempted turn directly into an oncoming car, but even though I was still pushing the gas pedal, the car didn’t get any faster.  In that split-second moment of “what just happened?,” I looked down at my dashboard.  The car had slipped into neutral (??!??); major, major accident averted.

Yeah, awesome day.


To the man on the moon

A startling thought I had today got me thinking.

I was walking out of the library this afternoon, heading home to talk to my very-close-most-wonderful amazing friend Jenna, and I thought back on my arrival in Spain.  I thought about that feeling I had sitting all day at JRK, waiting for my flight to Madrid, and it shook me in an unexpected way.   It wasn’t the memory that got me.  I just couldn’t believe how long ago that was.

I’ve been pretty wracked up this week.  The magic of knowing what words means hasn’t fully yet transformed into the magic of putting them together and remembering the ideas those words make, and that’s caused a slightly unhealthy stress level.

Everyday’s taken a constant, real effort to maintain my disposition and keep my priorities in order (meaning no matter how bad I want Stanford, there’s a lot that matters more than my grades), but everyday there’s been a lot of prayer and that one thing that’s helped me get through it, like the library man, dinner with a few of the most amazing people I’ve met in Spain, and my host mom editing my homework with me.

And the cool thing about all of the peace-bringing moments is that they are just as intense as the moments of fear and uncomfortability.  They just have the opposite effect.  It’s like living in a world where every sight is brighter, smell is sharper, sound is louder, flavor is unknown, and there are more nerves in every touch.  Every fear is magnified, but the sweet moments are surreal, if only because you clutch on to them because more unknown is coming.

That peace moment tonight brought a realization just as startling as the thought of how far away that day in JFK is.

I’ve always dreamed about having a window seat in my bedroom.  I got the idea from the reruns of an obscure two-season Disney show from the early-90s I watched as a kid.  With a sweet southern accent, the girl sat on her bedroom window seat and talked to the man on the moon (0:00-1:20).

Now, unlike Dorothy Jane, I’ve never talked to the man on the moon, but I’ve spent many a night in my life huddled in a comfy seat next to a beautiful view, looked up, and talked to God.  And tonight I realized that while there is not place for sitting, my little Spanish window has a wide sill and is thus perfect for leaning on.

Behind the clotheslines obstructing my view, I heard silverware clanking on dinner plates, laughter, and scattered bits of conversations from the adjacent apartments, and I thought about that feeling I had when I realized JFK airport was a long time ago.  And it felt good.

And then I said to myself, “Welcome home.”  This is home.