So it’s that time again. I am again pondering my life. Good old melancholic romantic me. Thinking about meaning and life and endings and purpose and impact and legacy and the future and everything. Good stuff. And it’s wonderful because I really need my alone time where I think about life and big things and decisions and perspective, where I really get introspective by myself and examine myself. The past school year was rough going when it came to that, really picking up towards the second semester and the end of the year. Thus this summer was just beautiful, because I was able to have a lot of time to think and be alone and rest. Everything else is usually there anyways, but sometimes I have to put forth a lot of effort for those three things. And now that I finally get the chance to do those things, it is refreshing and relieving beyond what I can describe, and I find myself doing it almost constantly, probably making up for the extreme lack of it that I was previously faced with. You know you are a Romantic personality type when your aunt asks you after an hour or two of conversation and walking through the city if all I think about is life and deep ideas and the future. And in a sense, it’s true.
However, there can be certain pitfalls to this that I have to watch out for. Together with my introspective nature, I also tend to want to know the reason for everything, to know why I believe what I believe, to look for a logical understanding of everything and anything, as well as the answer to the question why. Many times this is a wonderful thing and I think that it is useful for anyone to know these things or at least to desire to. However, it can lead to much doubt, insecurity, and even depression if I can’t remember the reasons why I do things and I have invested a lot to do them anyways. That is because I wish to take the best course of action and to redeem my time, energy, and in the long run, my life, by the grace of God having lived in a way that is as good as can be. It’s so easy though, to think about things and feel insignificant, to think about things and feel small, to think about things and feel as if you aren’t good enough and your work wasn’t good enough, to think about things and not see tangible results and become depressed, to think about things and be discouraged, to think about things and just become broken and paralyzed due to doubt and fear and discouragement and depression and even pride, whatever form of insecurity that may manifest itself through, creating an illusion that is not true and is not reality. And I have had to struggle through all of that. Thank God that He encourages me and comforts me and that my identity is secure in Him, but also that He allows me to see the fruit of my work every now and then, just enough to keep moving forward with all energy and vigor and to show me that this is the good work that I need to be doing right now.
For people that go and do the sort of work that I have been doing this summer, where you go to help, to serve a purpose, working with people and serving them to improve their lives, it’s easy to get down because it’s draining to really invest in people and if you don’t have someone pouring into you, you’ll get burned out. Many people don’t realize that those helping need someone to help them too, but it’s true. Some days the kids like you, some days the kids aren’t very responsive. Some days the kids are nice and friendly to each other, other days they want to fight each other. Some days construction is going well, other days the machinery breaks down or you spend several hours attempting to do something in the best way possible, only to realize that it’s not possible. Some days you can teach more English, some days you have to teach more music or play with them outside. Some days the children are excited and other days the children easily get bored. And it might be due to the weather and how it affects them in no-AC land, or how the weather affects them because they might have to stay inside all day because it’s raining. It might be due to family problems or situations that I am just not aware of, even though I tend to know quite a bit about their lives. It might be because of how much, or rather, how little, they ate last night or that morning. They might have just had a bad day.
When something goes wrong though, it’s so easy to internalize everything, especially if you are trying to be receptive to their input and reactions and trying to understand how to do things in the future. There, of course, are some obvious issues with that. First off, it’s unfair to you. I mean, maybe C and L want to fight because you decided to go and practice numbers before animal words that day or because you decided to play English games with them, but really, probably not. Most likely it’s because their parents were gone on a trip for the past two days and they have had to be cooped up inside because of the rain. If an old machine with a known history of problems breaks down on you, it’s probably not your fault. Matter of fact, it just overheated and it still works as unfaithfully as always. If the kids get bored really quickly and aren’t paying very good attention, it’s probably not because you took breaks or taught useful phrases or learned an English song: it’s probably because it’s really hot outside and they are just drained. If you are hoeing the ground so that a new foundation can be poured and your hoe breaks, it’s probably not because you shouldn’t work so hard: it’s just a very old tool and very tough ground. It may seem silly, but if you don’t ask the right questions at the right time, you can internalize most everything wrong going on around you that you have had any sort of impact on. Then, it keeps you from doing your best work, being yourself, and really giving all of yourself because you are tied up in fears and worries and depression and stress and feelings of unworthiness and doubt and second-guessing games and so on. It’s just really a bad state of mind and it seems reasonable until you ask the right questions, because sometimes, there is a grain of truth in there and there is something that might be improved. However, it is really handling it badly to go down those roads. Emotions are not bad, but how they are handled definitely can be. And that’s a struggle too. Sometimes there is the temptation not to feel anything, especially as a guy, because guys are supposed to be “tough” and “strong” which somewhere along the line became “numb” and “unfeeling.” But love is full of feeling, and if I am to love these kids and the people around me and if I am to form relationships with them that are healthy and beneficial to both parties, then I can’t cut off all emotional connections and pretend that I don’t feel as a defense mechanism. It’s counter-productive. The solution is just a matter of facing the problems and properly dealing with them as they come. And the danger of not doing so is rather large. This goes beyond just personal ruminations and not getting into funks, this plays into every conversation I have, every time I get before the kids and teach, my attitude towards everything, and the impact of the work being done.
However, I’m in a good state of mind. Yay! 🙂 I had some low moments when I was working through everything, but now, I am able to see some of the fruit of my work, and looking back, I know that it was all worth it and that it all made a difference, which is really where one should be at the end of a trip like this. I have about a week and a half remaining in Romania during which time I’ll be at a camp with the Caminul Felix kids for about a week and saying my goodbyes to the Tileagd kids and my people at Charis for the rest of it. Then I am on the road again, on my way back to sweet Tennessee! I fly out the morning of August 13 from Budapest, Hungary. I hit up Dusseldorf and NJ on my way back. And it’s an interesting feeling. I’m not sad to go because I know that my work here will be done and I have done the best that I could. Sure, I’ll miss seeing the people that I met, though we’ll be keeping in touch, and I’ll miss all my family from Romania, but I have no regrets and no reason to be down. It has been a wonderful experience that I’ll remember for the rest of my life and I have been honored with the opportunity to do some good. No reason to feel down there. I enjoyed every moment of it, and looking even at the harder moments, I can say that it was good. Pretty spectacular actually and more than worth all of the trouble.
But of course, there are always the good times, which shouldn’t be forgotten and obviously should be photographed and posted on Lumos blogs such as this one. 🙂 So, time to catch the world up on the local goings-on. Be prepared for lots of pictures. 🙂 One day, we went with the Caminul Felix kids and did some simple farming outside the city. We shelled peas, picked some weird sour cherries that are really popular here in Romania, neatened up one of the gardens, and played English games on the car ride to and fro. Fun it was.
I also helped out at another Charis camp, and this time, underprivileged kids from Tileagd made it too! (Ahem, my kids. *wink, wink*) Also a wonderful time! Lots of games, lessons, songs (where I was “forced” to play the piano), the grand outdoors, and FOOD. Truly lovely.
And...another camp working with kids! So many camps! Whew! Love it. Makes me feel young again. Good stuff. Well, what can I say, another splendid camp with splendid kids who really needed the love. The activities were similar to those in the camps I had been a leader in thus far. I was hooked up with this camp through Caminul Felix. It took place in Valea Draganului, which really, is where every camp that ever happens in the whole world should take place. It was gorgeous. Yes, I cried. Beautiful views...
Free food that literally tastes like candy...
Epic campfires, complete with camp songs and guitar accompaniment (yay!)...
And of course, lot of wonderful adorable children!! (Because what’s a camp without them?)
Hitting up the construction zone again: and it hits back. 8| Buyah. Anyways, just some classic stuff: cutting some grass the old-fashioned way (yes, it’s a scythe [a.k.a –reaper], hehehe), because the little electric mower is not doing too swell and can’t reach anyways, and I need to get at where the mounds of dirt are so I can level them out for the neighbors who’ll use their big douimahicki to cut the large areas of grass for the camp coming along. That was also the day I overheated the little electric mover. It was a great day. You just feel like a new man once you cut some grass with a scythe and walk around with that thing. It’s a sunny day and you look like the personification of death. And you are wearing an Alaska cap. It’s just fantastic. Try it sometime.
Digging, cutting, chugging. Oh, and the foundation was poured for the outside edges of the covered structure where I broke my hoe trying to break ground. Also, we’ve been working on a new bathroom for the kids when they are outside, and things are starting to shape up.
And that’s some of the stuff that is going on with me. Another week or so, saying my goodbyes, and the passing of a season. It’s all very symbolic. 🙂 I love this sort of stuff because I’m a literary geek. You might have guessed that already. Anyways, I’m still working hard, facing issues as they come, and loving people. And that’s something that will go on even after the trip. And I think that that is what this trip is all about: what remains. Some things you experience and then you pass by. Other things you experience purify and remove. But great things remain with you: that’s what ends up defining who you are and who you will become. And isn’t that what counts in the end anyways?
Grace and peace! 🙂