Monday night we had dinner in Vancouver WA with Rosalba, Martha (pronounced “Marta”), and Teo & Elizabeth, all from Mexico. It didn’t dawn on me until I saw the cake that they were celebrating our 13th anniversary, the first anniversary we’ve had together in five years. They wanted us to tell the story of our meeting (in Mozambique), which led to the story of our getting married (in Cape Town, South Africa), and where Solomon was born (Lilongwe, Malawi) – all told, not from the tortured perspective of wrangling with a broken immigration system, but how you tell stories at parties, with animated faces and joyous finger-pointing across the table when someone interjects their humor into your story. When the cake came out, Elizabeth demurely said in her accent that sounds like milk chocolate with a touch of chili, “In my country, at anniversaries, we take a touch of frosting and put it on the bride and groom’s nose.” I replied, “So, white frosting on my husband’s brown nose and brown frosting on my white nose?” Then Patrick said, “Do I get to lick it off?” That’s when the light humor turned into side-splitting laughter and by the time it was my turn to lick the frosting off his nose, I was nearly convulsing. Then something struck me. “Is this really a tradition in your country?” Elizabeth’s smirk and downcast eyes betrayed her and the laughter rose to a roar as I realized I had fallen for a practical joke.
Sunday we launched this journey from our home, Church of the Beloved, in Edmonds WA, primarily a white congregation. Two friends, Javier and Manuel, joined us and they were the only Mexicans there. During the festivities, a Beloved friend of mine, said, “Mary, you attract the most interesting people!” as if I’m unique or privileged to have the experiences I do. Americans like to travel to faraway places, see fascinating places, and meet exotic people, not realizing that all that exists within our own borders, in our own cities, and indeed, within our very own neighborhoods. It’s not that I attract interesting people; I go looking for them. I make eye contact, rather than avoid it, with people who look, dress, or sound different from me.
It doesn’t take thousands of dollars and air miles to see fascinating people – just open eyes and an open heart – a willingness to take small steps out of your usual traffic pattern of life. Click the “off-the-highway” option during your daily routine. Lift your head from your phone and look at the people you pass. Be willing to hear someone’s story directly from their own mouth, rather than through the perspective of a news reporter or radio commentator. Even the most reliable news source is still one step removed from the real person.
I promise you encounters with interesting people and amazing experiences. But I warn you there are risks involved – you may get frosting on your nose!