a few firsts

The last few weeks have been full of firsts. First thought: great practice for millions of imminent firsts in Viet Nam, right? Or not, considering that most of them were very American. Second thought: setting myself up for even more culture shock than I am already bound to experience? Conclusion: Oh well. Its been a blast.

So here they are:

-at Little Eden: Bringing my own friends to Little Eden family camp in Onekema, MI. Also, kayaking, canoeing across Portage Lake, through the channel to Lake Michigan, swimming across the channel. Watching my 8 year old cousin receive a double "snack shop special" (kisses on the cheeks from the snack shop workers).

-In Grand Rapids area: Watching the sunset on the Holland, MI beach. 6-, 7-, and 8-mile runs (ok, not really firsts, but firsts for this summer).

-In the Chicago area: Riding my first roller coaster at Great America with Emily Arkus (documented with an amazing and amazingly over-priced picture), eating a chocolate cake shake (how had I never heard of this before?!), taking a boat tour of Chicago, going to the lounge on the 96th floor of the Hancock building at night.

on the boat tour

Chicago at night from the 96th floor! A little blurry, but still pretty (I think).

Emily and me imitating Bugs Bunny at Great America.

All in all it was a great trip, and I had the opportunity to stay with a number of amazingly hospitable people. It was enough to make me choke back my typical cynical remarks about America's failing levels of hospitality as I was made to feel completely welcome and comfortable, was allowed to lounge by the pool reading and catching up on the tan that I missed while I worked in the library all summer, was fed lots of amazing food, was lent a car, and was assisted in lugging my 50+ lb. suitcase in and out of cars and up and down staircases.

Funny thing I realized more fully though: It is kind of difficult to accept such generous hospitality. Sure, I unloaded a few dishwashers, but otherwise I was, as my friends back in Arizona would have put it "freeloading." And it made me feel guilty sometimes. But I also realized that hospitality has to go both ways. It is easy to talk about "loving our neighbors," and often in our affluent society, fairly easy to act on this ideal. But, at least for me, it is much harder to allow myself to be loved.

Similarly, for all that I am going to Viet Nam to "serve," I have a shrewd little feeling that I am going to take more away from this experience than I could ever hope to give. I will be the blundering, awkward rude American. I will have to ask for help, or more likely, ask for help to ask for help. And sometimes I will hate that. We just had a session at SALT orientation on Meyers-Briggs' personality types and the prayer of my "type" is as follows: "Lord, help me be less independent, but let me do it MY way."

Accepting hospitality can be humbling, I know that; that is not a first. But hopefully I can learn to accept it gracefully.

I wrote this post yesterday, and this morning in devotions we sang a familiar hymn--from a real hymnal, I might note--that expressed more succinctly (as other people's words often do) what I was trying to say earlier:

Will you let me be your servant, let me be as Christ to you? Pray that I might have the grace to let you be my servant, too.

Finally, a tribute to my father:

Actually this building didn't look that much like you, Poppy, except for the name. Very ritzy; I don't know if you would be allowed in with your ponytail. But I thought of you nonetheless.

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