Wander

Where does walking get you in Freiburg? Actually, you can go quite a distance if you are determined, or you can go in circles and dig deeper and deeper like a spiritual wandering.

As I travel mostly by train I get to meet such a wide variety of God’s people.  If I was to simply watch over the Anglican flock in Freiburg it would mean visiting people as far away as Basel, and as close as ‘just around the corner’.  I walk through the streets on my way to visit people and I often wave to familiar faces on the Straßenbahn, or stop to greet someone who has just come out of a shop.

There is a great many people with very interesting lives, some of which I have the pleasure of meeting, and others I just scratch the surface of knowing.  Today I was struck by my desire for ‘thick skin’.  Emotionally, thick skin where problems, conflicts, even the daily bumps and bruises seem a bit more tolerable when one has thick skin.  At least that has been my ideal, or my perception.  Just today, a couple of people opened up to me the idea of seeing vulnerability as something of a gift.  One of these people was a young woman who describes the stigma of being ‘sensitive’ and the case for being a sensitive person. Four Thought, Sensitive Souls

On the Straßenbahn ride into the city centre today I sat opposite a young man who by all appearances had thick skin.  He just seemed to be wearing a chip on his shoulder.  On a very full streetcar, nobody seemed prepared to sit across from this young guy…so I did.  His hands, or rather his knuckles, were heavily tattooed with words that intrigued me, they said, “LIVE” and “HOPE”.  I guess I was staring, (it is hard not to when you sit toe to toe) and he seemed like he was needing to test to see how long I would sit near him.  He opened his bag and a thick fragrance of marijuana started to fill the air.  People started to stare, and more backed away as the guy began to grind up large chucks of pot.  “Nicht besorgt?”, said the young guy.  What I took to mean, ‘Not concerned?’.

It is a truly interesting feeling to walk through a town and know the places, to see familiar faces, and also to look beyond the ‘chip on the shoulder’ to see that someone seems to want to express so much across their knuckles, and yet devise ways to guard their heart.  Maybe that is what I do too, with a blog that acts as words across my knuckles, I’m just glad for the chance to walk the city with those who feel vulnerable.

At the end of the day, walking and talking, it is possible to cover a large area of Freiburg. It is not a pilgrimage getting from A to B, but much a kin to digging deeper and deeper in a labyrinth where after much plodding, we find ourselves at the centre with God.  Who, I think might also have the words LIVE and HOPE tattooed across knuckles.

 

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Open-Minded & Open-Bags

It is strange what you find when you aren’t looking for something.  One occasion was spotting a small handbag under a shopping cart which held 400Euro’s in cash.  There was no identification.  A single shopping cart was left near the bike parking at a local grocery store and underneath the cart on the ground was a palm-sized handbag.

Maybe it is from reading, and watching Sherlock Holmes that one starts to piece together the owner in ones mind.  The thought was that it was an elderly woman that had most of her entire weeks worth of money in one bag.  It turns out we were right, as the son called us to thank us, and wanted to know if we would like a reward.  Knowing that the item had been returned was reward enough.

There are times when distraction makes us forget the things that are essential. I know one reader will recognize that it is easy to leave, bags, books, wallets, and keys when a crisis strikes.  I do it all the time.

The other find was not actually much of my doing, as I walked the dog in the early morning before it gets really hot.  Wandering our way through the corn fields the dog has a pastime of jumping into the long grass at the side of the dirt roads.  He jumps around as if he were on springs; all in the hopes to catch a field mouse.  (He’s already encountered a Hedgehog and found them a bit prickly).  It was in one of these hunts that the dog strayed into the corn and was intent on sniffing something.  By the time I caught on that this was not a mouse I found a green shoulder bag.  There was a train stop, and paved road nearby, but again the deductive reasoning kicked in and started me thinking how a bag that is the same colour as the corn stalks got here.

This time around there was no money, but lots of ID cards, bankcards, and a very new looking iPhone that was dead.  The police have yet to find the owner, so I wonder,  “what will the owner think?”, or “What they are like?”  What happened to make the bag fall so far into the corn field? Who is this person, besides a young black man who has a student ticket for the train?

Everyday we meet people, but rarely do we ever see inside their purses, wallets, or bags.  Everyday we meet people and yet do we really get to open up and truly meet them.  Part of the mystery in finding the lost articles makes me wonder about keeping an open mind about who the people are behind the possessions.  In the same way we could think of the old adage, “Don’t judge a book by a cover”.

The church, when it works well, provides a place where people can open up as they find it a safe place…a sanctuary.  Open-mindedness is a practice when we meet people.  Naturally we find ways to place, judge, and identify people. However, some of this is surface material and only when we are lost and vulnerable do we find that we are spread open.  We see the fragility of an elderly woman with a wad of 50Euro bills.  We see the important items, the treasures, in bank cards, and student ID.  There are always surprises when we become vulnerable.

Some people shock us in their behaviours, their attitudes and their appearance.  Yet I know that when we look a little deeper, as uncomfortable as that may sound, we often find a lot of the same issues.  Loneliness, hurt, pain; as well as, joy, ambition, and longing.

Jesus meets his friends on the road as they are confused and filled with the anxiety of crisis.  In the venerable moment of sharing a meal with ‘a stranger’ they find the risen Lord.  “Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” Luke 24. 45