Friday, March 16, 2012

Day 14

I haven’t had much access to the computer lately, so I’m a little bit behind on my posts! But I haven’t forgotten the beautiful things from Day 14! On that day, I drove to Connecticut to spend about a week there, visiting my brother and a number of friends in the area. As I got on the interstate, I realized that I haven’t driven on the highway since December, when I last returned home after a trip away! That made me realize that I really do live out in the country!

I have to say, it felt a little bit like I crossed an international border somewhere along the way! As I drove, there were lots of little things that reminded me of the different culture I was entering. My nose registered a foul, acrid smell, and my brain remembered that those are called fumes, and they happen on highways. I heard a strange noise overhead and suddenly realized it was a helicopter. The shock absorbers on my car reported happily that the roads were actually smooth, not heaved by frost as they had been up north, and I got excited when I saw grass that was actually green! I began to see people of different races, and felt again the excitement of a blending of cultural history and perspectives. When I stopped at a store, I heard a flood of Spanish around me (which reassured me that the language I’ve been breaking my brains on for the past few months is in fact still in use, although nary a word is heard in my corner of the woods).

A lot of people talk about how the pace of life is more frenetic in the city, and I must say I did notice that, along with the fact that people don’t seem to take much thought to smiling at the people around them. There was none of the neighborly interest that people in the country take in their customers, or fellow shoppers. In fact, there is a general air of distrust (this corresponds with the fact that I felt impelled to double check that my car doors were locked when I came to a stoplight in the city.)

But then I ducked into a bagel shop. A bagel is my favorite meal on the go, because it’s quick, cheap, and delicious. That day, it also taught me a lesson. The bagel shop owner was the only person there, a short, slight, grey-haired fellow. After much deliberation (it’s hard to make any choices regarding food when you like everything), I gave him my order, and he set about toasting the bagel and spreading it with lox and cream cheese. As he handed me the bag and watched me get ready to leave, he leaned against the counter by his shop window, as though he was getting ready to take up his solitary vigil until the next customer arrived. It was a gesture of leisure, and perhaps of loneliness, and made it easy to stay a few minutes in hopes of a chance to share good news with him.

Somehow or other, we got talking, and the rush and swirl of the big city was entirely shut out of the quiet shop. He began telling me how he used to be a bus driver, and had travelled all over the States and even into Canada. He talked about mountains, and lakes, and all the beautiful scenes he had visited. He made a gesture with his hands to signify a collar around his neck and said, with his slightly broken English, “Now I feel like a dog, just going this way, and then that way.” He had done bus routes to a town near where I live, and he said he liked it up there. The people were friendlier, life was slower and less expensive. I had to agree.

But as I chatted with him in the quiet shop, I learned that busy, hurried, rough cities are not composed of busy, hurried, rough people. Instead, they contain plenty of people who spend life like a dog on a chain, trying to eke out a living and find a meaningful existence at the same time. They might be friendly if they only had a friend with a little time to listen. They’re not city people after all. Just people.

I got a mighty good bagel and an interesting conversation, plus a valuable lesson, for only $2.50. But I was able to leave him with something of much more value, the message of life and liberty through Jesus Christ. He was God, incarnated as a man who grew up in the country and lived in a city, bringing the message of hope to people of every background. He said, “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest….and you will find rest for your souls, for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

And there are weary people, and heavy laden, in every town, city, tent, and log cabin, of the world.

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