Tea with Germans

Yeah, yeah—I would love to be more fit, financially savvy, fun, and focused in 2014. As much as I may relate to these common new year’s sentiments, however, I have nothing novel or particularly witty to add to the annual dialogue. So this post is not anything remotely to-do with a yearly challenge, or a 365-day plan, or a renewal of dieting vows. As we close the door on 2013 and open the door to a new-and-totally-awesome 2014, I thought I’d lead us on a short jaunt down memory lane:

  • Remember back when I said that we should all get more comfortable telling each other about our shortcomings, and that I was going to make an effort to do that more often? Well, this post has a dash of “confession” in it.
  • Remember back when I said that I worked three jobs? Well, this post has a pinch of “two-weeks-notice.”
  • Remember back when World War II…yeah, okay, I wasn’t alive yet either. But there are a couple of Germans in this post as well.

So my Winter break has been lovely. I suppose it can’t be ALL that exciting, seeing as I am sitting here on my computer on new year’s eve, but I’ve had much worse holidays. After all, I had my front door wide open all day yesterday so that the lovely crisp air could come in (until the neighbors’ puppy wanted in too, that is). I spent the first half of the break working at the good ole security job (where I put in my notice—I’ve decided to stop working there in the spring). The holiday schedule of 8:00 to 5:00 left me exhausted and short-tempered. Add to that the fact that I have been trying to wean myself off of caffeine while I am test and paper free, and you have the perfect storm. That’s probably why, when one of my housemates stopped me (on my trip from my car to my bed) to share some news with me, I wasn’t exactly thrilled to hear what she had to say. Our conversation was brief, and as she smiled, thanked me, and ran up the stairs, I remained thoroughly confused. Here’s what I got out of our discussion:

  • An unknown number of her tennis-playing friends were coming to stay at our house for a couple of nights while they played in a tournament.
  • They were from Germany.
  • I “wouldn’t even see them, they would just be here to sleep.”
  • Aforementioned housemate would be leaving for Mexico before they arrived.

I don’t know about you, but Grouchy Emma was a little creeped out at the idea of some number of German strangers coming into my house while I slept (If you are reading this and you are one of the Germans that this post is about, no offense). Soon the morning came when I rushed down the stairs and found our living room occupied. I surmised that there were two of them, and that they were of indeterminable gender, although I was 87% sure at least one of them was male (they were sleeping, it’s not like I could gather any more data than that without being thoroughly creepy). I was in a rush that morning, so I got my car started and in reverse before I realized that it was garbage day. As I wrestled the cans in the direction of the curb, I realized that my visitors had left the side door wide open! The nerve. I made sure to message my housemate a very curt request that her friends keep that door closed in the future, thank-you-very-much.

At least 24 hours passed without a chance meeting of they-who-come-at-night and myself. After all, I went to bed early so that I could wake up at an ungodly hour for work, at which time the gender-ambiguous-athletes were still sleeping on the sofas.

The next evening, I took the precaution of locking my bedroom door as I showered and got ready to go out. Honestly, I didn’t even realize that my door had locking capabilities until that night—I had never felt the need before. But who wants strangers wandering into the wrong room on accident? I just wanted to be on the safe side. I went and ran some errands, and got home around 11:00, already feeling the need to hop into bed. Unfortunately, it turned out that my bed was on the wrong side of a locked door. My locked door. My first-time-in-a-year locked door. Somehow, the simple push-lock had not become un-pushed when I had left for my errands, and now I was locked out of my own room. All of my housemates were out-of-state (or country), and there was no key. I commenced planning mode:

  • Plan APick the lock—Who was I kidding? I wasn’t Nancy Drew. I’d never successfully picked a lock in my life. What’s more, all of my small tools and tool-like-items were on the other side of the locked door. The butter knife was useless. The screwdriver was MIA.
  • Plan BBrute force—Do I even need to explain the many reasons why this plan didn’t work?
  • Plan CBecome Karre—I was tempted to just crash in Karre’s room, which is right next to mine. After all, she has a nice bed, and some articles of clothing left in the closet that I could probably make work for my office shift the next day. As I crept about her room, however, a little voice poked holes in Plan C. Emma, how long could you live out of Karre’s room? Karre’s room doesn’t have your box set of Gilmore Girls: Season 2. Karre’s room doesn’t have a phone charger. Besides, you might need to change your underwear, eventually. I cursed the voice of reason inside my head, and I cursed not having spare GG, chargers, and underwear in my backpack. Then I filed Plan C as the emergency back-up plan. Wait, did you mention GG?                                                          Sorry, I got a little carried away…
  • Plan DPhone a friend—I texted one of my on-duty security guard compatriots, but he wouldn’t be leaving HQ for some time. All I could do at that point was wait.

When they found me at midnight, I was doing the dishes, laughing internally at the rotten luck that seemed to follow my every move. They took the opportunity to apologize personally for the open-door situation, which I graciously forgave them for. Somehow, one door-themed conversation led to another, and pretty soon I had some Germans helping me to break in to my own bedroom.

  • Plan EGerman break in—After about 14.5 minutes of small talk and the ruination of my Howdy’s coupon card, I slept in my own bed that night. I’m not sure where he learned to pick locks, but that isn’t really the point.

Where I slept that night isn’t really the point either. The point is that despite my best efforts to avoid the inconveniences of dealing with strangers in my life, in my house, I was forced into talking to them. And despite my best efforts at avoiding shining my light—in fact, what would seem like efforts to spread indifference and rudeness—I was thrown in the way of these two strangers who actually turned out to be a huge blessing.

During our 15 minute break-in chat, Christianity came up. During our week long house sharing (yes, it turned out to be more than a couple nights), Christianity came up often. As did English Breakfast tea, omelet sharing, SoCal sight-seeing, immigration issues, social differences between the countries, and Harry Potter. Ironically, I was sad to see my new housemates leave. They were cleaner than the girls that I actually live with, that’s for sure (If you live with me and you are reading this, no offense) (But really, it’s probably your turn to do the dishes).

I’d always thought of myself as hospitable. Whenever I had friends stay with me, I did my best to accommodate them and make them feel at home. I did grow up in the semi-South, after all, and what do they teach you there except to drink sweet tea and serve Southern hospitality? In reality, though, I feel like I have been missing the mark.

“Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Yeah. I have been missing the mark. It’s more than my friends who come to visit. Actually, it’s even more than those who I am literally forced to provide shelter for. The hospitality that I am called to show is a love for strangers that should cause me to act with love. for others. for strangers. for the forgotten. It isn’t about having a beautiful guest room (although that’s always lovely), it’s about making room for people in your life wherever and whenever you see needs. It isn’t about making yourself look or feel good, it’s about serving and loving everyone, even the people you’ve never seen before in your life, and even when you’d rather not be bothered with any pesky company. God knows I’ve only made it this far due to the hospitality of countless people, strangers as well as acquaintances (and ex-girlfriends of my dad) (that’s a long story).

So I guess this is my first lesson-list of 2014 (I’m sure the year has plenty more lessons in store for me after this):

  1. It’s better to have an open door than a locked one.
  2. Picking a lock is much easier than I originally thought.
  3. Maybe don’t suggest the Historic Nazi Stronghold as a good day hike for German guests (seriously, what was I thinking? But really, the hike looks pretty stinking cool).
  4. I have a long ways to go on the hospitality spectrum.
  5. It’s pretty hard to spread the good news when you can’t be bothered to meet the people staying in your own house.
  6. College in Germany is a whole lot cheaper than college in the U.S.
  7. Russians celebrate Christmas in January? What a bunch of hipsters.
  8. Not all Europeans hate Americans.
  9. It’s much harder to see God’s will when I’m so caught up in my own.
  10. Harry Potter is the universal language of the millennial generation.

So yeah, it turned out to be more than a couple days. If I had known that at the beginning of the week, I would have been irate. As it turns out, I’m inexplicably grateful. or dankbar.

So go be more gastfreundlich. I’m gonna do my best. Now, here are some snapshots of December for you:

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