Thursday, 10 May 2018

Adventures, Discoveries and Lessons from a Month in America

Travel is a privilege! It’s not my first time abroad, but my first time was when I was 24, and I had never even been on a plane before that, so I am still VERY aware that this is never something to take for granted. Of course, I am trying to find a happy mean between being an intimidated newbie and a world-weary bored traveller. Airports used to be scary, but now I try to grit my teeth through security lines and immigration checks, and enjoy the people-watching, and unabashed introvert time of movies and food on the long flights.

Life in the US is (for many people, and for ME), very, very comfortable- you can adjust the temperature inside your house so that the heat or the cold never have to affect you for very long; even churches are air-conditioned; most adults own their own cars; meat and cheese are not luxuries but part of a daily diet; houses are big; it’s not unusual to have your own bedroom; stores have EVERYTHING your flesh could desire; hot water flows 24-7 from faucets, you don’t have to worry about the hot water finishing as you shower; dishwashers and dryers make life so much easier. I loved it all! My flesh LOVES comfort.

Like Saint Paul, I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned not to hold on too tight to the good things I received, and I’m grateful to have returned to a life of simplicity and routine. I’m glad I didn’t stay too long. It’s too easy for me to start feeling like luxuries are necessities. The heat of the Indian summer has hit me like a brick, and I’m trying to remember that it is good to be in solidarity with the vast majority of the world that cannot adjust the temperature to their comfort.

But I sure enjoyed the cool weather and warm jackets in IL

Hospitality is one of the keys to changing the world. I spent ten days with the parents of one of my closest friends. They not just welcomed me into their home, but opened their hearts to me, treated me as their daughter, and graciously made me feel like I was doing THEM a favour by paying them a visit. We spent hours talking, as they shared marriage and family tips with me (no, I’m not getting married, I just love gathering those nuggets of wisdom). I was impressed by how well they kept their home, taking care to make it a place of beauty and welcome.

Not just a well-kept home, but an open heart

I realized how unhospitable I’ve been in my life - often vaguely resentful at having to adjust my life to look after guests, doing it, but grudgingly. Not to mention, not being the best housekeeper or homemaker. I want to be different. Receiving hospitality has made me want to work a little harder at keeping my home clean and beautiful, and being quick to receive people into my life and home, seeing it always as an opportunity to share the love of Christ. Reading this article also really convicted me - Rosaria Butterfield: Christian Hospitality Is Radically Different from ‘Southern Hospitality.

I discovered the joys of public libraries. How unbelievable it seems that there is a building full of books, set apart for ANYONE who wants to read or work in silence, and all for FREE. Is this heaven? What an amazing way to bring up children – just take them to the library and set them free! There was even an entire section just for children, areas for storytelling and book clubs. If there was anything that would make me crave a life in the US (or similar countries), it would be public libraries. I had an inner battle trying to reconcile my desire for the obvious good of the availability of books and libraries with my call to serve the poor and live a simple life – it seemed like these two lives and desires are irreconcilable.

Is this heaven?

But then in conversation with my mum, it came to me – bring this good thing TO the poor. I don’t know how exactly – how cool would it be to start a library close to the slums or poorer areas and then welcome children from all backgrounds into it, giving them a quiet place to read, study or work, something they may not have in their normal home lives. Someday. Meanwhile, I help out at the tiny library at the school where I serve.

Prayer and Mass are even more meaningful in a new place. It’s true that without a regular routine, prayer can be easy to forget or put off. But I found that I NEEDED that time with the Lord, quiet time, to love and be loved, to process everything that was happening, and to remember where my true Home was. I was blessed to find friends who would take me to daily Mass most days, and even in unfamiliar churches (where I still had to repress my urge to give people the namaste sign at the Sign of Peace because in my mind the namaste sign IS the Sign of Peace!), I found my Jesus waiting for me.

My frowny smile is my normal photo face, not fear of the evil crawfish face

New things are good! I have grown so much from the scared, over-cautious Sue of the past. I tried new things, met new people, and took calculated risks. I tried crawfish (and enjoyed it in spite of its sinister appearance), I walked 10 km by the Mississippi (somehow picturing the world of Tom Sawyer, but of course I was 180 years too late), I went thrift shopping and discovered that when prices are dirt cheap, apparently I DON’T hate shopping, I even went on a date (which didn’t lead to anything more, but scared-to-go-to-Mumbai-by-herself 20 year old Sue is impressed by going-on-a-date-in-a-foreign-country 32 year old Sue). '

Some of those awesome old friends

Old friends are an incomparable blessing. I got to spend time with many old friends, talking and sharing and telling stories, and laughing, going deeper and having those REAL conversations, rejoicing at each other’s milestones and victories, sharing the pain and confusion of unfulfilled desires and uncertain futures. I danced at their weddings, played with their babies, and ate meals at their homes. What a gift!

But I’m glad to be home. With all its discomforts and challenges (40 degrees weather anyone?), home is still home. Home is people I love, family time, seeing how much fatter my tiny niece has become, the familiarity of the crowded city, chores and housework to be done in my own apartment, work that I love, and exciting plans and schedules for the second half of the year. Adventures are good, but faithfulness and normal life is better.


  1. Beautiful. I so relate to many of the things you have written so well about. The libraries, the things that are taken for granted in the US and are luxuries here in India. I have lifelong friends in the US and enjoy visiting and catching. I have seen both worlds and I still LOVE India. This is HOME.

  2. This is beautiful! As usual resonates with exactly how I'm feeling. Cannot wait to see you !

  3. Love, love, love your article and your writing. I can feel the joy and pain in every line. Its almost like being torn apart from within and yet being able to be joyous and peaceful at the same time. Lovely writinग Sue! xoxoxxo