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#18: Myself

What I learned in France...

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my•self mahy-self]
pronoun

Sometimes, when someone goes to look at something, they are caught head-on with their own reflection. When we critique someone, we often have to swallow our words after realizing that we commit the same mistakes. We go to point fingers and discover everyone else’s fingers pointed at us.

This is what happened in this photo and on this trip. I was riding the tram and thought it would be a good idea to document our mode of transport in Strasbourg. I am a huge fan of public transportation, so this picture was a no-brainer. But when I tried to take a picture of the schedule outside the tram, my camera focused instead on the dirty tram car window.

When we go somewhere as learners rather than as leaders, we are often brought to a point of humility. Trying to adjust to a new culture, a new language, and a new time zone can leave someone exhausted and cranky. Most of my previous out-of-the-country experience was for missions purposes, with the mindset that I would bring the Gospel to the people. While we are called to share the Good News and make disciples, we are also called to do so in love and in humility. Going somewhere new with an imperialist mindset can therefore ruin relationships with the local people as well as keep us from learning from others.

But when we go somewhere new with a willingness to learn, we see things about ourselves that perhaps need to be changed. Similarly, I found the filthy window, which manipulated my outlook, when I went to photograph the schedule outside.

By focusing on how to love others in a cosmopolitan world, I learned seven major things about life and about myself:

1. Global cosmopolitanism begins with local compassion. I was struck that I was concentrating so much on big things, like better education systems, poverty, and hunger and yet ignoring the poor around me. I walked past people sitting on street corners begging for food. It took me a week to realize that if I couldn’t love people, I couldn’t say I loved the world.

2. I must love people as individuals before speaking of global humanity. Similar the first lesson, I realized that I should begin with those who were closest to me. At times I struggled to view my peers and classmates with love, but God reminded me of His love for all, including my friends.

3. I should learn from others instead of always trying to bring something – education, food, aid – to them. In Ethiopia we experienced what it looks like for a national to lead an American. It was humbling. We washed the Ethiopian leaders’ feet at the end of the week, not out of false humility, but out of our genuine appreciation for them and gratitude to God for them.

4. It is good to learn how to be a cultural citizen instead of a global leader. We emphasize leadership so much, especially at my school. But sometimes, instead of being a leader-at-the-front, we need to just be. We need to swallow our pride and become the least of these. We need to reflect Jesus as servant leaders.

5. I meet everyone in my life for a reason. I had some unique conversations with other tourists (with whom I could speak English). I learned a lot from each person I talked with, even if doing so only taught me more about American life and culture.

6. Conversation is powerful. If God spoke and created the universe, and if He said that words hold the power of life or death, then words are important. By talking with others, we tear down miscommunication and are better-able to understand and relate to people.

7. Even though I need people, I also need my personal time for rest, reflection, and rejuvenation. I love people. There’s a reason I want to teach. But also reach a limit. I realized that to be able to love people to a max, I need to know when I max out, so that I can recharge. A couple of hours on my own work like magic.

I’m sure that I will continue to learn from this trip as I live out my life. This summer I will live in a diverse community and can put what I learned about a macro-scale cosmopolitanism into micro-scale. As I teach kids in the future, I will have an even better standing of what to teach them about community.

Lest I forget, I’m including a list of trip highlights:

-L’Abri
-Making of the Savage exhibit
-Arab museum
-Visiting Sacré Couer with Mrs. Downer
-Feeding fish at Versailles
-Sitting in on a European Court of Human Rights hearing
-Riding the trams with Sarah in Strasbourg for two hours one day
-Watching soccer
-Free Wifi at McDonalds
-Eiffel Tower
-Coffee and pastry with Mrs. Downer, Susanna, and Sarah
-Centre Pompidou
-Notre Dame
-Meeting a family from Germany at Notre Dame
-Cathedral in Strasbourg, especially sitting in there during a service
-Fondue (and all homemade group meals)
-Concentration camp
-Arc de Triumph
-Louvre
-Musee d’Orsey
-Meeting an author and his wife in JFK

Thank you to Dr. Mills for his fantastic trip-planning skills, and to my parents for letting me go! :)

Posted by klewis91 04:57

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