Friday, November 27, 2009

welcome to the battle.

I've never been much into Dunkin Donuts, though I love coffee and would drink it even if it squirted up out of a hole in the ground and I had to sift out the dirt with a drainer. You get the point... I really, really love the stuff.

But far beyond my love for coffee lies a greater love... a love that as I pen these very words, brings tears to my eyes. I love people. In particular, I love the people that the world rejects and glances over. I love people who are different than I am; people whose beauty far extends that which our world perceives as beautiful. Yes, these are the people that I love and want to spend my whole life serving.

This morning, I stumbled upon a Dunkin Donuts down the road from my house here in Baltimore. With nothing else to do, I decided I'd go in and see what all my West Palm friends find so wonderful about it. When I walked through the doors, my eyes were immediately drawn to the young, dark-skinned girl behind the counter; she may have been fifteen years old. Maybe. I stood at the counter and stared at the menu. I stared back at her. Then, I stared at the boy next to her, and then at the middle-aged man behind her. To the right of them, I saw an older woman with a young girl who looked about five years old. They were all family, a family from India, and to me, they were absolutely beautiful.

My eyes were fixed upon them, captivated by them, and though I was pretending like I was trying to choose which flavor of coffee I wanted, I was really thinking about them. I wanted to know their stories. I wanted to sit down at a table and listen to them, watch them, dwell in the fascination that their beauty had impressed upon my soul. I was so caught up in this moment that I didn't even notice the man who jumped in front of me in line. No, I just stood there and couldn't help but want to be friends with them, to spend time with them, to get to know what was going on in the heart and mind of this fifteen year old girl. Were they happy? Were they presently in need? Had they found what they were looking for when they left their home in Ghazibad, India to pursue a "better one" here in the States? Had anyone reached out to them? Loved them? Extended their hand to them?

I wanted the time it took for them to pour coffee into my cup to last forever. Maybe I should have ordered a more complicated drink, or perhaps fifty of them. And even after the young boy handed me my coffee, I tried to leave, but I simply could not. Eventually, they caught the glimpse in my eyes, and they all began to turn their heads in my direction. Each one of them, clearly intriguied by the fact that I had not taken my eyes off them since I walked into their store. I flashed them a smile, and I told them "thank you." Then, I left.

As I was leaving, I felt so torn. I began to wrestle with the concept of "what if." What if I had more time to spend here in Baltimore? My plane leaves at 8 AM tomorrow. What if I lived here? What if I had the opportunity to get to know this family? What if they trusted me? What if I started to come into their coffee shop and I taught them about God's love for them? What if listened? What if they believed? WHAT IF?

What if. What if. What if. What if we had more hours in our day? What if I could be seven different places at once? I would do anything for that to be true right now. A piece of me would be in West Palm Beach. A piece of me would be here in Baltimore. A piece of me would be in India, Germany, Pennsylvania, and Ecuador. The seventh piece of me would nomadically travel around the entire world, spending a few days in each city that exists, and I don't think it would ever settle down.

And so here lies my battle with the "what if's" in my life, the battle to know where I belong, with whom I belong, and when I belong there. Welcome to the battle. It's going to be a fun one.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

finnish giggles.

On my way out of downtown West Palm Beach the other night, I was awkwardly approached by a medium-height girl with bright blonde hair and Starbucks coffee in hand. We'll call her "Anni" for the purposes of this story.

Out of no where, Anni jumped in front of me. At first, I secretly wished that I was the 1,000th person to pass by the Starbucks store and was going to be handed her delectable cup'o'jo, but I soon realized this was not going to happen when Anni opened her mouth and with an accent I had never before heard said... "Can you... for us?"

I stared at the five giggling girls on the bench beside her, not really sure what she was asking. They just kept giggling, wide-eyes open, and giggling. They were adorable, these girls. There were six of them, all seemingly around my own age, and all crowded on a bench made for four. They did not care; they had each other, and their friendship, and of course, their uncontrollable giggles.

Anni then pulled her camera out of her pocket while repeating herself, "Can you...for us?" Duh, I thought. They wanted me to take their picture!

They probably had been giggling at me, or perhaps at Anni, whose attempts to communicate were quite flustering to witness. Or maybe they were giggling because my blonde hair and fair skin matched each one of theirs. Their smiles were contagious; so much so that I could not help but chuckle myself.

I grabbed the camera and waited patiently as each girl positioned herself on the bench. Anni tried to explain how her camera worked, pointing at the "POWER" button as the button I was supposed to press to snap the photograph. "Here," she said, followed by a motioning of her hands to demonstrate taking a picture. I nodded my head in agreement, feeling it would be a bit rude to correct her on how to use her own camera.

I went to snap the photograph, and called out the traditional "one...two...three," with my finger on the correct button of course. A photograph was taken, but the flash did not go off. With the girls all primply posed on the bench, I looked at the screen to find the button to turn the flash on, but all I could see were words in a language that I knew nothing of. Finnish. I stared at the screen, that is, until Anni grabbed the camera from my hands and clicked the POWER button herself to "take the photograph." When the camera turned off, there was both a hint of surprise and embarrassment in her eyes. Maybe that wasn't the right button, she realized.

I then grabbed the camera from her hands and motioned for her to sit down with her friends. I eventually found the flash button, and was able to successfully take their picture. Anni stood up from the bench, grabbed for her camera, and flashed me an awkward smile.

I could not help but wonder why these girls had come here to West Palm Beach, FL. After all, it isn't necessarily the most "touristic" place to visit. Had someone they knew been here before? Or had they simply closed their eyes, spun around, and in a moment of nomadic adventure promised to jump on an airplane to whichever place their finger landed? Finally, I decided I'd just ask them myself.

"Why are you here?" I asked Anni. All of the girls perked up on the bench, trying to incline their ears to our conversation. Anni looked at me with confusion in her eyes. Speaking more slowly, I began to motion with my hands... "Why" (with hands in the air) "are you" (pointing at them) "here" (fingers pointed to the ground). Anni stared for a moment, and then replied... "We have vacation. Three weeks. We just wanted to see the City Place!"

Her excitement was so adorable, but oh how desperately I wanted to know WHY they had chosen to come to West Palm Beach. Not like it mattered, but somewhere in my analytic mind, I just wanted to discover what makes people GO to the places that they eventually end up. What motive moves them? What motive led six Finnish girls to jump on an airplane to spend three weeks in our not-so-glamorous city? Perhaps deep down, I was hoping to find an answer for what my own heart was feeling, as I myself am prayerfully considering a nomadic, adventurous move of my own.

We eventually went our separate ways, yet I could not get our awkward, gesture-driven encounter out of my mind. If I do ultimately take this leap of faith and head out for yet another adventure, I will more than likely spend several months of my life gesturing as these precious girls had done with me. Gesturing and motioning, and of course acting as if I have all the answers when in reality I am telling others to "press the power button" to take my photograph. Overwhelmed by confusion, I will stare as they try to explain their world to me. And when I finally get a glimpse of understanding that the POWER button actually turns my camera off, I, with a hint of embarrassment and surprise, will think of these dear girls from Finland and I will count my blessings. Then, of course, I will giggle uncontrollably. Oh, God help me! =P