Thursday, January 16, 2014

A Fish Out of Water

Mark Twain wrote a book called, "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court".  It has been made into a motion picture at least once.  It tells the story of a man who is transported back in time to medieval times in the land where King Arthur reigns.  This man decides that he can use the knowledge he has of the modern age from whence he came to perform "magic" for the people in the medieval age so he does things that are common to his era that the medieval people have never seen and they believe he is a magician.  All goes well until the tide of public opinion turns against him because someone accuses him of being a witch.  He does not seem to fit in because he is not "one of them" and is an outsider to the people of that age.  His speech and habits are strange to those who live in that era and they do not trust him because of his differences.

Many of us have been outsiders.  I have constantly been one throughout life because I have lived in several different places.  Each time I have moved I have started over getting to know people and have often found that I do not speak just the way others do or have habits, behaviors, or characteristics that are different than those who have always lived in the place to where I moved.

There are times that you feel as if you are an outsider even if you return to the place where you grew up.  I was visiting with my mother a few years ago just after my father had passed away.  She needed some items from the local grocery store and I volunteered to go buy them for her.  She told me to go to the grocery store where we had shopped when I was growing up because they had certain items at sale prices she wanted me to pick up so I drove to the store and walked through its aisles and gathered up all the items she wanted.  I took them to the clerk at the check out counter who began to ring them up.  She finished and began to bag the items when she looked at me and said, "You're not from around here, are you?"  I laughed and said, "Well, yes and no.  I grew up here but have lived away for over 30 years so I guess I am not from here."  She asked me my mother's name and said she thought she knew here and I said most likely she did and then left to return to my mother's house.

I did some thinking about that interaction with that store clerk.  I am not from that town anymore, that is for sure.  I left there emotionally years ago and have never returned except to say goodbye to my sister, father, and brother.  I have visited there bodily many times over the years but never really belonged.  The town I grew up in no longer exists.  It has changed as much as I have changed since I left there.  I can walk its streets and rarely see anyone I know because its population has multiplied five times over since I was a child there.  There are far more "new people" than the people I knew when I was growing up there.

I guess I am really not from anywhere in particular but from everywhere also.  I guess I belong to no place but I am a part of every place.  I live where I do now because I work there but I am also a part of the community by virtue of my position within the community.  Some of the community practices were new to me when I arrived but I have learned to accept them as normal because those who lived here before I arrived consider them to be normal.  Many words were new to me because they derive from European languages spoken by those who lived here in the past and have been passed down through the generations.

I was the new guy for the past ten years but now I belong even if I am an outsider.  I belong because some people have accepted me as part of their own inside group.  I belong because even a fish out of water can find renewal in any pond or puddle or stream if it discovered what is needed for life in that location.  Life in the here and now requires friendship, love, and respect and I have found them where I live.  I had those same things in other places too but find nourishment for the present in the present circumstances I have chosen as my own.

(...I have learned to be content with whatever I have...) Philippians 4:11


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