Nervous energy. I think that’s a good description for the weirdness of a travel day for every short-term mission team, especially high schoolers.
I woke up this morning thinking of the youth leaders and their checklists. At this point, the day they fly, there isn’t much left to do. Count heads, reassure parents, and check stuff off the list.
But I also think about the students. Tonight we will pick them up. They will walk out of the airport, take heir first breathes of Guatemalan air, their eyes will dash back and forth wildly. And they’ll be full of nervous energy that’ll annoy everyone and no one at the same time.
Months ago, maybe longer, they decided to go on this trip. Maybe even before it was a fully formed idea they dreamt of going on a trip with their friends to a far away place.
A need to go to Other.
To acquire the taste. The call to the Other starts with a sense within themselves, a need to explore things outside of their culture and language. Until they get here the Other is a curiosity to try new things and meet new people. But Other gets an ornament hung on its tree tonight, the imaginary Other becomes real.
Even in a global society connected in milliseconds to people everywhere, there is something unexplainable inside them which demands to smell, feel, and be immersed in the Other.
Acquisition of this comes out as nervous energy. But don’t misread it. They’ve never been to Other, of course they are nervous.
They are Brave
When I think of the students coming here today I admire the bravery that is showing itself this morning as they board that plane. They are so close to Other and yet Same annoyingly demands their last-minute attention.
Mom’s are nervous, too. They force a brave smile over a morning cup. They are compelled to say things, to double check and annoy their baby. Sibling’s peck. Dad’s murmur. But it’s mom who is forced to push.
In their inexperience students misread mom’s nervous-energy-words as nagging. But mom is excited, too. Leaving her high schooler at the airport brings fear to the surface but also feels like an accomplishment. She wants them to go but wants to hold on. Compelled by nurture she gives a shovehug. She misplaces her words, “I love you and I’m proud of you.” comes out as, “Don’t lose your passport and listen to your leaders.” It’s clumsy and loving. She pushes past her tricycle memories to will her baby to go see Other.
But I can’t forget that the students we will pick up later today are brave. It might be their bravest moment.
They’ve left Same to experience Other. Some will hate it here, but are willing to try. I think learning to hate a known is far superior to hating an unknown, I can respect that.
But a few will come to Other today and never be the same. Same will never look quite like Same, again. In the smiles and football game small talk this Fall when they are back in Same they will see shadows of Other. For them, coming to Other ruins Same forever. They know that already as they hug mom one last time. They want that, they need it.
The nervous energy doesn’t bug me. It’s what we all do when we are trying to be brave, to find Other.
This week I’m in Guatemala with our missions partner, Praying Pelican Missions. If you want to learn more about PPM or their work in Guatemala, fill out the form below and I’ll follow-up with you next week.