“Well sir, it looks like the backstroke to me.”
I thought of that old stale joke the other morning as I sat eating my bowl of cereal. It came to mind as I casually plucked a tiny ant from the bowl and continued eating.
Now, those who know me well, I’m quite convinced, are at this very moment doubting the veracity of this story, but I can assure you it’s absolutely true. Mind you, the ant was really, really teensy tiny … and he wasn’t swimming in the milk, so he had apparently already expired. I guess I could have even convinced myself that it was a fleck of pepper. But why would there be pepper in my cereal, for goodness sake?
I remember when the news came out that we were coming to Papua New Guinea, an officer who had spent some time in some pretty remote places shared with us how easily this kind of thing would become quite normal. He said: The first year, if I found something in my food, I would push it aside and not touch it. The second year, if something was in my food, I would just remove it, and go on eating. The third year when there was something in my food, I just kept on eating.
I’m not convinced about that third-year thing, but hey, a year ago I wouldn’t have believed this second-year thing either! And it’s happened already. (I know! I’m as startled as the rest of you about this!)
It got me thinking about the many little quirks that have been part of my personality for as long as I can remember that may have been impacted from having lived here in PNG. Germs and dirt just don’t seem that big a deal to me anymore. Now perhaps I’ll revert back to my old ways upon my return home, but we’ll see.
I know that I’m too close to it to see clearly, but I wonder if family and friends, when I visit back home, can see differences in me. We’re coming home for furlough in December, flying from Port Moresby to Chicago. Here, it’s approaching summer; in Chicago, it’s going into winter, and I know chances are good that it will be bitterly cold. How will my body acclimate to the differences?
As I look around at the relative opulence of just everyday living there, I wonder if I’ll notice the daily ease of a hot shower, a strong Internet signal, a fresh piece of fruit, a head of lettuce for 99 cents. I wonder if I’ll slip back into easy patterns of taking so many things for granted, or if I’ll feel any sense of disquiet over the vast disparity in living conditions.
I determined before I came over here that I would not be one of those missionaries who comes home and spends the rest of his life making Americans feel guilty for life in general. And that’s still my commitment. But I do hope a new perspective gives me pause to savor the pleasantness of a blessed life. And I hope that I’m able to help others see how easy it is to make a huge impact in some far off land by just giving a few bucks to World Services.
I know this experience has already changed me in many, many ways, great and small. There are a lot of things I’ll feel differently about.
But I still won’t like spiders. There’s a limit, you know.