A Thankful Heart October 2009

How many bad hair days can you have in a row? How many ways can you cook rice and how many times will it be served today? What will I have for Thanksgiving dinner and will I truly be thankful?

I’m sitting in a hotel room in Hyderabad, India, half a world away pondering such questions. Back in Fergus, Ontario, our family will soon gather at our home (without us) for the autumn harvest celebration, Thanksgiving.

Just a few minutes ago I heard Bob shout, teeth chattering, “There’s no hot water.” It is difficult to believe that he could be cold after spending the entire day wiping perspiration from his brow in the 34 degree, high humidity temperatures; however, we have come to enjoy and expect a shower to be at least warm. Not to be daunted by such triviality, he continued his cold wash. Very soon after, the same voice called again. “No there’s no water.” It begs the question of which is is worse, no hot water or no water at all.

I certainly do not want to be listed with the ungrateful. We are having a great experience. And I love rice and curried chicken. Really. Day after day, I look at all those little pieces of white on my plate, wondering if any of them might move, and give thanks. That is, until a few days ago. I watched as a fellow guest poured a cup of saffron soup with chilies over her pile of rice. Immediately, hundreds of grains swam merrily around the surface of her plate, swept in a current of green and yellow liquid. I quickly glanced away, desperately hoping that my face did not announce the arrival of nausea. Then I tried to convince everyone I was not hungry. It didn’t work. Somehow our Indian coordinator sensed the real problem and proposed a Western food restaurant for supper that night. The gracious hostess, however, wanted to please, suggesting they would prepare anything we wanted for the evening meal. How about Swiss Chalet? For a pleasant moment I dreamed of the possibility. But, for the sake of hospitality and not offending the kind cooks, just a few hours later, I faced the same dilemma. Most of the exact dishes graced the simply set table with one difference…boiled potatoes, quartered with skins on, filling a plate. I sure made a meal of them that night, grateful for each high-carb bite. True Western fare.

I’m dreaming of all my children and grandchildren using cutlery for their holiday meal, while observing all around me adults seemingly playing in their food, ensuring every single morsel of rice is coated with curry or pepper sauce. Then, deftly using all five fingers of the right hand, insert the delicacy into their mouth. Flashbacks to the countless times I stuck a utensil in one of my toddler’s little hands and they immediately threw it on the floor. Wasted time perhaps?

An echo of familiarity from the distant past rings in my ears right now. Grumblers, we called them in Sunday School. The sons of Israel complained that they had no water either and an overabundance of manna, God’s provision…endless days of the same old.Looking back and remembering the best of the past, they forgot the difficulties of life in Egypt, and wanted to go back…to a life of bondage. Later on in their pilgrimage, they hung their harps on the willows, sat down and wept while longing for another life.

Can we sing a song in a strange land? Yes, everyday Bob and I sing as part of our assignment here. More importantly though, music helps convey our gratitude for this incredible opportunity to discover, not only differences but the common bond of Christ’s body all over the world. Little adjustments pale in comparison to the wonderful people we encounter in each city, town or tribal area. Our experience here is richer by far because of all the cultural diversity, adding new colour, flavour, sights and sounds to the adventure.

By the way our Indian coordinator told me when she started global travelling, she prayed for the Lord to give her an international stomach. I’ll put that on my prayer list next time but for now I want to go back, not to Egypt but home to Canada… a land of cool temperature, unlimited flushes and endless great hair days.

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