My life is usually overflowing with people who are so funny and smart and interesting – mostly those of you reading this blog. And I’m so lucky to be around you that I sometimes forget that there are still other people out there worth being friends with. (This sounds snobby. I know.) But this evening (I wrote this blog on Friday), I was reminded that you can never have too many friends. Oscar’s secretary is about my age, and she invited me to her house for dinner. Beforehand, I was a little nervous. My shy, introverted side can only handle so much small talk, even in English. But as it turned out, everyone there spoke English, and so we spoke mostly in English all evening. This is not my goal, but it was a nice break. No work on the Sabbath, right? :) And instead of awkward small talk, we had lively conversation about all kinds of interesting things. I didn’t leave till after 1:00 a.m.
At one point in our conversation, I tried to explain the dynamic of our community. I told them that we are all mixed up in each other’s lives, even our friends who live on the opposite coast. We share everything – food, music, stories, laughter, and tears. No one calls before coming over or knocks before coming inside. We always know that we want to be around each other - that life is better when we’re all together.
I got a little emotional trying to explain the depth and beauty of my community. It’s truly unique. But here, an overnight flight away from my dear home, I am experiencing a different side of community. It’s not so deep or intertwined. But it’s beautiful nevertheless. No one on this continent has any real reason to care about me, but since I arrived, I have been the recipient of so much thoughtfulness. I met Anthony’s mom and family at the airport and caught a ride with them to la Villa so I wouldn’t have to brave public transportation by myself just yet. Our driver paid for our dinner at a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant. When we arrived in la Villa, Mrs. Handal’s friend escorted me to the president’s office. Oscar thought of everything, from finding me an electrical adapter to giving me money for dinner. This morning, he took me on a tour of the campus and introduced me with pride in his voice to other important people at the university. Another one of my students, Edith, smiles so encouragingly at my fumbled attempts at Spanish. She’s already made sure that my weekend is full of plans.
When I try to describe it concretely, their gestures seem small, but they have made me feel absolutely welcome during a time when I am self-conscious of not belonging. There’s a level of formality to this kind of community, and I don’t feel like any of us have really chosen each other. These people aren’t benefiting from my time here; they are caring for me only out of the goodness of their hearts. But somehow, it feels good to be cared for just...because.