Monday, August 1, 2011

Seventy-seven

77, a number I will never forget.

If you read last Sunday's post, you know that I was somewhat apprehensive about Monday's impending boat ride. Well Monday did in fact turn out to be a pretty awful day. And you wanna know the funny part? I didn't even go on the boat!

It all started on Friday when I made the final headcount for our trip to Robben Island. Students, staff, spouses, kids - we were 70. Somehow by the time we got to the dock on Monday morning we were 77. That's 7 short of the number of tickets I had purchased, which meant 7 of us had to stay behind.

My day just went downhill from there. It included, among other things, running from one end of the harbour to the other to find a missing bus driver. A jacket with a broken zipper. And the cherry on top - a ripped yogurt container and yogurt all over my fridge and floor.

In the middle of all that mess of a day though, I discovered something. As I was watching the boat pulling away that morning on the dock, I was of course angry with myself for having messed-up the headcount, but surprisingly deep down I found that more than anything I was sad.

Now I've already been to Robben Island. I hate boats. I hate crowds. I had just spent 2 hours in a tightly packed bus with all these people. But here I was actually missing them! "What's wrong with you?" I said to myself, "You are crazy! You have four hours of precious alone-time in a luxurious shopping mall on a beautiful harbor. No chance of running into anyone you know. No interruptions. Just you." And yet, I couldn't get over the fact that I missed them. I missed people! People!

A year ago I would have given anything to get some peace and quiet, to have a day alone without all the chaos and noise and questions and problems and misunderstandings and craziness that is the ELS. But God seems dead set on making this not a-people-person into one. And there on the bridge, I realized that something had changed. I felt a little bit like the Grinch whose heart grew three sizes too big. The only difference was that my little introverted heart had grown so slowly and imperceptibly that I didn't even notice it.

I'm finally starting to realize the truth of what Catherine Marshall wrote in her book "Beyond Our Selves", "People - with their fears and their foibles and their dreams. People - with their struggles toward faith, with the pain and the exaltation of their pilgrimage. People - with personalities that live on and on, growing, learning, loving, lending helping hands to others. People - that is what life is all about."

Even though the program was a mess, the bus was late, all my plans had gone awry, I suddenly discovered that what really mattered to me was people, that noisy, crazy, mixed-up bunch of people sailing away, who I actually missed - all 77 of them.

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