Friday, June 27, 2008

The teacher becomes the student...

One of the things I love most about my job is learning that I have so much to learn. Often, I sit at the feet of those much younger than me for my lessons.

This morning I got the chance to speak to a couple of the students who led a trip to Africa that I was involved in sending. The team just landed at JFK this morning for a well-deserved day in the big city after spending the last month in not-so-big Malawi. They all loved their trip, even Emily.

Nobody would fault Emily, of course, if she didn’t exactly adore the experience. After all, a trip to the African ER because malaria chose to take up residence in your bloodstream isn’t most people’s idea of a good time. Add in South African Airlines’ conspicuous lack of knowledge as to the whereabouts of Emily’s luggage when they reached the country a month ago, and it seemed like Emily unknowingly signed up for the lead role in "National Lampoon’s African Safari."

Then, a couple of days ago, I found out that not only did South African Airlines not know where Emily’s baggage was in May, they weren’t any more knowledgeable about it at the end of June. Yup, homegirl lived in Malawi for a month without any of her luggage. Just the clothes she had on when she boarded the plane on May 27 and whatever stuff she had shoved in her backpack (much of which was emergency contact info and the team leader packet I foisted upon her). Most everything else she had to borrow. For a month. Recipe for disgrunt, I say. But, Emily seemed to be baking from a different cookbook than mine.

Emily: “Benji!”
Me: “Emily! It’s so good to hear your voice! Welcome home. I’m so sorry to hear about your luggage. That’s awful.”
Emily: “You know what? It’s not that big of a deal. I’m over it. I think God really used it to teach me. I needed to go through that.”

Emily was already on my short-list for “Least Materialistic College Student,” but now I was really impressed. She told me that it had been hard for her at first, but that she was fine now. She also said that if she never saw her bag again, not such a big deal. If ever someone deserved a New York City shopping spree as a reward for fortitude, it’s her. If ever there was someone completely unlikely to take one, her again.

I have much to learn from my students. I just hope I keep taking notes.

Do not worry about what you will wear…

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Dems the breaks, goyim...

Last Saturday morning Greta and I cruised to the fabulous Farmer's Market that descends on Santa Barbara each weekend. We often choose the Farmer's Market for our weekly supply of veggies and fruitstuffs.

As we cruised through the aisles, I noticed the Barack Obama supporters table, a fixture at the Farmer's Market (I can only assume the John McCain table was at a local gun show). As we passed the table the first time, I thought borderline pleasant political thoughts. Later, after picking up a heavy supply of strawberries, we passed the left-wingers again. This time, someone spoke to me.

I heard, "Excuse me, sir? Excuse me?" Immediately my "run-away-from-cell-phone-pimps-at-the-mall" defenses went up. For some reason, I ignore my defenses. Although everything inside of me did not want to turn around in the middle of the Downtown Santa Barbara bastion of liberalism and explain to the kindly people behind the card table why I would not, in fact, be voting for their version of change, I turned anyway.

Democrat guy: "Um, excuse, sir?"
Me: "Yeah?"
Democrat guy: "Do you know Hebrew?"
Me: "Um, kind of."
Democrat guy: "Could you read this? We just got them in and nobody knows what they say."

At this point Democrat guy extends a bumper sticker to me with something scrawled across it in unpointed Hebrew. Unpointed meaning without the vowels. Further meaning not the kind I learned how to read. Fortunately, as with most things in the political realm, this was lowest-common-denominator kind of stuff.

Me: "It says 'Barack Obama.'"
Democrat guy: (to his Democrat buddies) "Oh, it says 'Barack Obama!' That's great! Thanks, man. You should take this bumper sticker. Since you're the one who read it, you should have it!"
Me: "No thanks, that's alright."
Democrat guy: "No really, man. How about this button, then? It's the only one we have in Hebrew, but it's yours. Really, I insist."
Me: "Uh, thanks."

With that I slipped the button into my pocket and walked away beside my beaming/laughing wife. The button is now prominently displayed on the cork board beside the microwave.

So, how did Democrat guy single me out to begin with, you ask? Why not grab some other schmuck and ask him to translate the button? Well, everyone else must have left their Hebrew-language shirts from the Dallas Seminary bookcenter in the closet that morning.