Old Tales, New Orleans
Last you heard from me, I was grumpy and ready to leave Canada. It’s been a month and change since then. Lots of time has passed, clearly, and I don’t know why I ever slacked off on updating this thing (spoiler alert: I do know why, and it’s because I’m a slacker).
What prompts me to write right now, however, is my current situation. I find myself in the heart of the French Quarter in New Orleans. The Big Easy. My sister has an interview for a hospital out here (she’s a doctor), and I decided to come with her. It’s a great way to bookend an adventurous summer the week before I start school again. We got here earlier today, and being on the road again made me realize just how long it’s been since I’ve written anything at all. It made me realize, also, how much I miss having something to say. So: In a gesture of good will (and good practice, for myself) allow me to fill you in now on my adventures since last we met.
First of all, Canada has ruined me for international travel –and not primarily because of my mood since I last left there. It’s because I almost didn’t leave there. Twice.
Scenario one: On our way back from Edmonton, we had to change planes and pass through customs by way of Toronto, of course. Except once we walked all the way from one end of the airport to the other, we found out that they couldn’t even locate our checked baggage. On top of that, U.S. Customs wouldn’t let us through until they knew where our checked baggage was.
What could we do? We had to wait. So, off we went, back down various hallways and around diverse turns to a holding area where –surprise, surprise– at least 60 other people were waiting for their lost or misplaced luggage so they could pass through customs, as well. Again, what could we do? We grabbed some chairs and hunkered down for what would then be a nearly two hour wait while Air Canada tried to track a hundred or so checked bags. I, of course, only cared about two of those.
Meanwhile, the connecting flight we were supposed to catch kept getting delayed –a blessing, since we couldn’t get on it. That held up for most of the time, but right towards the end, the screens changed from “delayed” to “boarding”. That’s when the panic threatened to set in. I wasn’t having any of that, though. If there was one thing I’ve learned on those retreats, it’s how to trust God even when you’re in no mood to trust God. So, instead of worrying that we were gonna miss the flight, I started to praise him in the silence of my heart. I thanked him for who he is. I thanked him that, even though my situation might be rocky, he’s the Rock. I thanked God that he knew what was going on, and if he thought I needed to go through it, it must be for my good.
None of this is to say I was being saintly. Far from it. I was still quite irritable. To tell the honest truth, I was this close to throwing some sort of tantrum, because then at least I’d get arrested and deported back to the States.
The countdown continued. They called for boarding one more time, and finally –FINALLY– my niece’s name popped up on the screen. They’d found her bag.
“They have my bag,” she said, and she looked to me. My name was nowhere to be found on the LCD screens that ultimately held my fate. Everything hung in the balance.
“Go on without me!” I exclaimed, but she stood in the walkway looking at me like I was a complete idiot. Which, granted, I probably am.
“I’m not gonna leave you here.”
“It’s fine, I’ll survive somehow!”
I was being dramatic. It felt like a dramatic moment. I suppose I saw myself in some kind of Titanic scenario where I’d be pressed to “never let go.” Just then, though, my name flashed up on the screen, too, and we rejoiced and were off. The customs agent totally took longer than he should have, but we were able to get past the checkpoint, down more hallways and around more corners to the gate, where they were just about ready to lock us out. But we made it. So. Good for us.
Scenario two isn’t as fun, so I won’t go into much detail. Basically, after getting there early and spending 248937 hours in the airport, they decide to stop me when I’m at the gate and tell me I’ve been “randomly selected” for an “enhanced security screening”. Once again, my plane was right there and I was about to miss it, dagnabit. But I had to walk all the way back to “customer service” (some service) and get frisked.
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: I have never been thus treated in my entire life!
Anyways. After that fantastic experience, I finally made it on the plane, and I was 100% over Canada. Pfft, Canada. Who needs it (no offense to any actual Canadians. You guys are pretty chill, but the airlines are a hassle).
Later, we headed back to California –this time, the city by the Bay– to serve at a youth retreat. That’s saying a little, but it’s also saying a lot. We had the teens group –roughly ages 14-17, and that’s a difficult thing to handle. Fr. George did a beautiful job, though. Not only did he relate to them on their level, but he challenged them and spoke to them like they were able to understand things on a different level as well. I think that’s a big reason of why he’s so respected in the community. He doesn’t fool around, and he treats you like a human being.
On a personal level, I love working with this age group the most. They’re the most challenging but the most rewarding at the same time. It was such a gift to me to see these people –with their various tough exteriors and ne’er-do-well attitudes– leave the retreat with renewed hope. I think that’s the most wonderful thing you can equip a young person with: Hope. Hope that there’s a meaning in their current struggles; hope that it won’t always be “like this;” hope that they have a purpose, and that they’re not just aimlessly floating in this often abysmal world. I still pray for them when I remember their faces, and how their expressions changed over the course of three days. When time came on the last day of the retreat for the anointing prayer, I would be playing and singing and sometimes I’d peek out into the crowd and see those kids sitting there so focused and so open to the Lord, singing the songs they’d learned from me in our time together. It lifted my heart so much.
In many ways, it’s impossible to convey how deeply moved I was with that experience. I won’t try to explain it anymore, but I will say that I’ll never forget it and that I hope to repeat it someday.
Fast forward to my time at home since then. It’s been eventful in some ways. I wrecked my car, and I’m still waiting for it to be repaired. My family has had some interesting misadventures with installing new windows on the house. My nephew visited from the army and just recently headed back. Overall, though, it’s been both nice and difficult being off the road. I miss the routine and our ragtag group of ministers –Fr. George and Sister Gracie; Sister Ranis and Alex and Dr. Zubin. I miss the wonderful open hearts of those people who organized and ran each retreat; I miss the retreat houses. I miss working for a purpose and having purpose in my work. Stability. That’s something that I’ve always desired. Over the summer, it was something I had –even in the moments that, of themselves, were less than stable. I’ll miss that.
I’m better for serving. I’m better for having to give of myself. I’m better for having moved away from my comfort zones, and I’m better for saying yes to that opportunity. Will I get another chance? I dunno. I hope so, but honestly, I’m not looking for it to happen the same way twice. What I am looking for is those new challenges from God. He offers us so many opportunities to say yes. He can take one yes from me and turn it into an international adventure that involves everything I love –music and worship. He takes even the smallest offering on my part and exponentially multiplies it. I don’t know anyone else that can or would do that for lil old me. So, I’m looking for those difficult yes’s. The ones that scare me and the ones that seem too good to be true, but the ones I should submit to anyways.
I guess, I don’t know what the future holds; but I know Someone who does.
From New Orleans, to wherever the next road leads. Until then, as always —