Tuesday, August 17, 2010

We're All Foreigners Here

It's that most delicious time of year in England: blackberry season! The kids and I have been foraging up and down the myriad pathways of our town, enjoying the break from school and the simple joy of picking and eating blackberries as we walk along.

Ripe berries seem to be waiting for us everywhere we go, and since the weather has cooled off I’m back to wearing jeans so as not to be intimidated by the stinging nettles and thorns. This past week we’ve picked and picked and picked. On Thursday we made three dishes of bramley apple/blackberry crumble. One for us, one for the elderly couple who live two doors down and one for another elderly neighbor whose dog Rosie loves to play with Jack and Sophie. On Friday, in between spells of rain, we went delivering pudding!

Rosie's owner invited us in to meet a friend who had come for lunch. Both of these ladies are 80 years old if they're a day, and both of them just bubble over with laughter and energy. Before I knew it we were making plans to go blackberry picking together on Sunday afternoon!

There’s a path just outside town, the old coach road, where the blackberries are plentiful and the pathway peaceful -- definitely worth the mile walk, they said. Should we drive? I asked, thinking they might appreciate a lift.

"Oh it's close by," they said, "and the walk is good for the children." So it was settled. (And when Sunday afternoon came, we had so much fun! At this rate, my fingernails may be stained black permanently).

As we chatted, my accent gave me away, and I admitted that I grew up in the States. These ladies practically clapped their hands with glee. "I'm from Germany!" said one. "I'm Italian!" said the other.

"How lovely," the German lady laughed. "We're all foreigners here!"

Lovely indeed. Lately I've been reminded how much I enjoy living among people from other places, how fascinated I am by cultures that are different from my own, how delighted I am by women whose background is not what mine has been. I’ve been reminded how similar we are in spite of all those differences. I’ve been reminded all over again how very much these friendships make me feel right at home. This is definitely my very most favorite thing about the path my life has taken.

We’re all foreigners here.

I’ve been thinking about that from another angle, too -- while reading about the ten aid workers killed last week in Afghanistan, while watching the news about the horrific floods in Pakistan, while praying for the ongoing situation in Haiti. Life is short, fragile, precious. It can be frustrating and even painful at times, but it can also be over in a moment. This world is not my home, I’m just a-passin’ through. Remember that old gospel hymn?

We’re all foreigners here. Sojourners traveling together. And all those differences between us aren't meant to divide us but to make the journey more interesting.