Last night was the annual Christmas party that was held by the woman I work for a few days a week. Let me back up and say that the reason I took this job was to get out of the house, make a smidge extra cash and really set my foot into Madison more. I have been a bit disconnected these past years now that I’m no longer living downtown, I stay home with two wee children all day and the main people I connect with on a weekly basis are my mailman, not in that way, the check out woman at the gym and people in the organization I work with.
I have been lamenting over the fact that not only do I have few adult conversations during the week but I feel that I am a woman of strong influence; my ideas and my ability to communicate them as well as challenge people to think a bit out of the box make me feel electric when I’m in the zone and lately I feel I’m not moving about in that zone as much as I would like. I have learned so much over the past 15 years on how to listen and to simply be interested in people. I love to engage in the process of discovery and dilemma with people around me but there have been months where I have felt that the only talk that comes out of my mouth is a dissertation for my son about the methods of taking a pooh in the toilet. We still haven’t mastered that one yet, much to my deep disappointment. I’m telling you, as they get older the pooh gets bigger. Nuff said!
So this job has been something I have been looking forward to. It’s only for a few hours during the week because as much as I have felt this is the right thing for me to do for my own sanity I sure do value being at home with my kids. The days that I go in have been giving me an outlet to be creative, I’m sewing, and also talk with grown ups. I am not one of those women who join three different play groups during the week so this is one way for me to be around people.
My husband and I, with our kids in tow, came to the annual Christmas party not knowing what to expect since I only knew two people that would be there. First our son, being the ball of energy that he is, came right up to a group of older kids playing with a train set, didn’t even look them in the eye and sat right in the middle of their train set and started grabbing at toys. I admit I was getting nervous of what the night would hold with chasing the boy all over the small flat as he grabbed toys, opened up every drawer in the kitchen or tried to mess with the entertainment center. How would I have a normal conversation with anyone while chasing him around? He did do well considering he grabbed an entire baguette and started to chew on the end of it. He also climbed into the refrigerator, ran away with the host’s cordless phone as she chased after him to get it back and hit a little girl. Those were the minor hiccups of the evening. But for the most part I really enjoyed myself.
I spoke with a cross dresser named Kate and felt awkward referring to him as her while I was speaking with Kate’s parter. He/she was very nice and loved to hear about what I do as a missionary. I have to admit that in a situation like this I never know what to do. Should I talk about what I do? How should I phrase it so they don’t automatically think I am a right wing, republican that has held up her picket sign in protest to those ‘dam liberals trying to run this Godly country into the ground’? Should I have a glass of wine….or two? Should I laugh at an off-color joke, even if it was actually really funny? Should I have had a good time when I was just talking about how awful salmon and blue cheese made my breath smell? Would it have been ok to have had a great time while talking about nothing meaningful at all?
These are the real dilemmas people who leave missions to go into the ‘real world’ have to wrestle with and I have known that for a long time. I feel that it’s so right on to walk the tension of being a light in the world without putting your light under the bushel of the holy huddles we create for our safety and comfortability. I am experiencing just a taste of what a lot of our students deal with when they go home or our staff who have left our communities to work for a living. It’s such a different world and it’s one that I don’t want to be afraid of in terms of potentially making mistakes. I’d just like to have more sorted. Would we all?
Needless to say I really loved being around strange and flawed individuals last night. Not because I feel that I have the glue to fix them…even if I am convinced that our design is marred by a smog of decadent cultural fixations and there is freedom to be who we were created to be. I enjoyed myself because I felt right in the element of the real world in which everyone lives. There were moments of feeling awkward especially when my son wasn’t sharing or I was talking to a man who dresses like a woman, unsure if I should tell him/her what I really do for a living. But I love that Jesus got out there with people and he not only enjoyed them but he moved about with them in such a normal and mundane way. He spoke, not just of being raised from the dead but also about wheat and an honest days wage. He had this triumphant message about a new era that was coming but he also lived a life where he worked, he ate and drank, he used the bathroom, feel asleep and woke up with morning breath. He laughed and he thought right alongside the people just outside of his door. What a rockstar to take his life to the people and live it with them; to embrace people in their world as he pulled them into his.
I’m certainly not making the comparasion of my life and a moment at a Christmas party to what Jesus accomplished. I am challenged and impressed with the normalness that he lived his epic life among people like you and I. It’s easy to feel this burden of making a huge impact in the world and leave behind an impressive legacy; to always be intense! But most of us are really average and ordinary folks and our lives are pretty ordinary. I think most of it comes down to being interested in people and loving your neighbor. Everything else seems to build off of that.