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Thursday, February 18, 2016

Connecting in Real Time

I'm happy. I didn't think it would be this easy to be happy or that I'd feel content so soon. I will admit, there were a couple of moments when I wondered if I had made the right decision, when I prayed for someone to talk to, or when I ate my breakfast as quickly as possible so I could leave the awkward silence surrounding me. I was tired of smiling even though inside I was lonely, tired of being positive when there was mold on the ceilings and the internet had gone out for the 5th time that hour, and tired of being cheerful when the main space on my breakfast/lunch/supper plate was occupied by the same combination of cucumbers and tomatoes and olives.

But when I had the opportunity to speak to people, then all those annoyances disappeared. You see, I love being around people. I love to listen to them tell stories, to laugh together, and to engage in a deep discussion on things in life. I can be content sitting in silence as long as I am sitting beside someone. The past few years had sadly been lacking in daily interaction unless I worked hard on making it happen. Now, just 3 days into my stay, I feel comfortable around others and I'm happy.

I have retreated to my room to gather my courage up to tackle the three flights of stairs one more time, to figure out where to make photocopies or buy toiletpaper, to go and eat in the cafeteria where I am still learning the hierarchy of the tables and who sits where. But I haven't watched a single movie or missed it. I haven't stalked Facebook friends, wishing their life was mine. I haven't done endless searches on singles dating websites, hoping to find someone who's halfway normal and also interested in connecting. In other words, I've stepped out of my virtual world and into the real world.

People still spend endless hours in the virtual world here. At breakfast, I saw 6 people clustered around a table, all good friends, and not one was interacting with the group. They were focused intently on their phones with an occasional aside to someone to look at a picture or read a meme. I'm grateful for the ones who take time to talk. To tell me stories and make me laugh. To open their hearts and trust me with their challenges. To be curious about my world and invite me into theirs.

When I left my home a little over a week ago, I had no idea where I would fit in. I'm so thankful to realize that I do fit in. My weight, my spirituality, and my diet do not factor into whether people here love me or not. I see their eyes light up as we exchange greetings and pause for a moment to share life. For this I am grateful.

For many years I have insisted that God gives us gifts that we can use to honour Him in service. Yet I never thought that our characters are also shaped so we can serve Him in joyfulness. I spent several years counting the hours til the weekend. I wasn't happy. I longed to be surrounded by people who could challenge me and accepted me with little regard for the regulations that accompanied conservative living.

Coming here and realizing how happy I am makes me sad at the same time. I realize that I could have stepped out of my comfort zone a little sooner and I wouldn't have been so unhappy. I could have left. But perhaps this is one of those life lessons and maybe the next time I find myself counting the minutes til my time is my own, I will take a deep breath and step into the Jordan.

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