The meeting with the committee preparing the World Day of Prayer Service was delightful. I met 9 really nice ladies, most about 15 – 25 years older than me. Many had lived in the village for a very long time, between 20 and 45 years! It was also the first time several of them had participated in this service. The surprise for me was that we ALL have speaking parts in the service. They were gracious to me and expressed joy that at least one voice ‘clearly isn’t Bavarian’ (note to self: work on accent). They were a little disappointed that I’m not Catholic as they need Catholic representation in the service.
That made me think of my German Catholic grandfather. One Christmas when I was 8 years old, a present appeared under the tree that was labeled To: Irene From: Grandpa. I was thrilled! A present all to myself from my grandfather. I stared at it for hours wondering what precious item it could contain. It was tradition in our family to allow one present to be opened on Christmas Eve, so naturally I begged to open that one. After much resistance, my parents gave in and let me open it. Under the outer wrapping was a brown paper bag. I carefully unrolled the bag and out into my hand fell an onion. I held it up and gasped, “Is that all?” as the tears started to roll. After I stopped screaming, “I hate you!” and the crying dissolved into sobbing hiccups, Grandpa told me why an onion, “You are too trusting. You must learn that not everyone will be kind to you!”
And he was right. Many years later, we moved to a village outside of Kiel, Germany. On my first visit to the post office, I struck up a conversation with the man next to me in line and told him we were new to the village, etc. He asked at the window if a package he was expecting had come, it hadn’t so he turned to leave. I purchased my stamps and put them on the letter I wanted to send. When I looked up, I saw the man luring my two year-old out the door!! I freaked, grabbed my son, and yelled at the stranger to ‘go away’. I went home and reported the incident to the police, but had nightmares for many weeks thereafter.
Did I learn my lesson? Not really. My first week on the job in England, an architect who was helping us redesign an old hospital the college had purchased asked me to show him the building again. I didn’t think anything of it, but of course I would. It was only after we got there that I realized he was more interested in me than the building. I insisted he take me straight back to the college. Thankfully, one of the college officers had noticed the ill intent and removed that architect promptly from the project.
So I have to ask myself the question, is it really my Ex-Pat state that drives me to such levels of trust or is it merely an aspect of my personality? I just expect people to be good. You could call it a character flaw. After all, it has gotten me into some sticky situations. However, I only have a handful of stories where the person did not meet my expectations. I have many, many more stories of people who not only met my expectation of goodness, but exceeded it. Maybe it is that very openness that has allowed me to move from place to place, country to country, and find community where ever I go.
Yesterday at the local pharmacy, a woman called out my name. It was the lady who drove me to the meeting last week. She introduced her husband to me. He promptly started speaking to me in English and told me about his wonderful year in Knoxville, Tennessee!
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 New International Version (NIV)