Tuesday, April 8, 2014
Dorothy said, "This ain't Kansas any more, Toto!"
There was a time I thought I was halfway "urbanized" . . . halfway "East Coast"; but, that is no longer the case. This business trip to Philadelphia to attend the national conference for the Council for Exceptional Children has pretty much confirmed what I did not suspect . . . I have lived too long in rural America to ever feel completely comfortable with the city life . . . and, it does not matter whether it is on the East Coast, West Coast or anywhere in between. I have been away far too long to accept what I am experiencing as "normal" when compared to what I presently live. Philadelphia is not Montana . . . nor Nebraska . . . or even (and I cringe to say it), Kansas.
I am a country bumpkin in a strange and foreign land. People do things differently back here in the BIG city . . . plus, there are a hell of a lot more of them! I think I have seen and encountered more people today in a span of less than twenty-four hours than there are in the whole state of Montana from border to border . . . and, I have experienced them in the airports and in the ten-something blocks I have wandered around since arriving in Philadelphia. There are people every where! Seems everywhere I turn there are more and more people. This is enough to drive an introvert crazy! I am not used to being in contact with this many people in one day . . . people, people, people!
Not only are there lots of people . . . the people are all in a hurry. Where they are in a hurry to get to, well, I don't know; but they are always moving and moving fast. I imagine they are just going about the paces of their lives, but they do it so quickly. They never look a person in the eyes. They just press onward and forward. Not one person acknowledged me whenever I said, "Excuse me" or simply acknowledged them with a simple "Hi". Which brought up another observation . . . the further east I went in the United States, the less courtesy there seemed to be. I was bumped, shoved, tripped, maligned, and looked at like I was an idiot, and not once did anyone practiced common courtesy by saying, "Excuse me." The behavior I experienced is not something I am not used to because I experience it all of the time at Walmart . . . you know what I am talking about . . . that mindless, lost in space, sort of behavior where people forget to practice the Golden Rule because they are in shopper's paradise. It runs rampant the further east one goes.
Of course, the people don't see this as a problem . . . this is just the way life is for them where they are living. It is not their problem, it is our problem . . . those of us not used to such living. I realize that because it is the same thing that my sister (from back east) complains about whenever she comes to visit me in whatever rural location I am living at. She says the "laid back" attitude drives her crazy. The people being nice to one another and actually expecting a reply when asking, "How ya doing?" The slow pace kills her. So, apparently, this is a two-way street. Yet, at my age, introvert or not, I still like to be acknowledge with more than an abrupt bump as someone is rushing by. Haven't seen a lot of that from the locals yet . . . they are too busy living their lives to realize there are others out there.
Now, I said, I once considered myself to be fairly "urbanized". I spent a few of my years in a very populous area . . . the Washington, D.C. area . . . and, I adapted fairly well after some time. I learned how to survive and not do the ultimate faux pas . . . things like flipping off driver while driving on the Beltway . . . better safe than shot! But, I have been gone too long . . . been out in the wilderness for much too long . . . I have settled into the ways of Ma and Pa Kettle. I am about as urbanized and comfortable in the big city as Dorothy was in the Land of Oz. It is a sort of time warp I am experiencing.
Now, don't get me wrong. I see this challenge as a sort of an adventure . . . just like Dorothy in trying to get back home. That is kind of what I feel like . . . Dorothy trying to get back home. I am encountering people who are different than me . . . but, there is more diversity within the one block of the hotel where I am staying than there is within a sixty mile radius (probably even more) where I live in Montana. And, I am encountering a heck of a lot more people . . . I don't like living where the people live on top of one another. That was one of the major selling points and reasons why I moved to Montana in the first . . . there are no people! People live differently out here than we do out west in the rural parts of the country . . . strangely, but they think the same about us. Things are different . . . like stepping into a warp of time and place . . . almost surreal. Sure, it is frustrating, but it is not bad. It is just different . . . not what I am used to . . . and, that is what makes it an adventure.
Despite the differences these folks were created in the image of God, just like I was. And, they are also considered to be a part of God's family, just like I am. Like me, they are just trying to figure out how in the world they are ever going to find their way home. We have more in common with one another than we have different . . . it is that our differences drive each other crazy. But, we can say the same thing about those we are closest to . . . our spouses, children, and friends . . . they drive us crazy too. We are family! And, if we are going to be honest, there are things about our family that drive us nuts! Yet, we love them anyways.
That is the challenge of this adventure . . . well, that and surviving . . . to love them anyways. So what if they are never going to acknowledge me until I bump into one of them spilling their ten dollar cup of Starbucks coffee. True, being cursed at is no fun . . . but, hey! At least they will know that I am there. I will return home, I always do, sigh a sigh of relief that I am home where life seems normal . . . but, I will also return home with a greater appreciation of those who are different than me. The problem is not them . . . it is me. I am the fish out of familiar waters, not them. I stepped into their world, not my world. I just have to keep reminding myself, "This is not Kansas (Montana), Toto!"
Thus the adventure begins . . . a foreigner in a strange land . . . or is it a stranger in a foreign land . . . or is it just me being strange? Whatever the case, the adventure begins . . . what lessons will I return to Montana with? Who knows . . . but I do know that I will never develop an affinity for expensive coffee and teas . . . shoot! Five bucks for a cup of tea when a whole box of fifty Lipton tea bags is just a little over four dollars . . . it ain't ever going to happen. I don't live in Philadelphia, I live in Montana . . . but I know there is a bigger world out there. It is time to embrace my fellow sojourners . . . even if it is only for a little while . . . but, NO five dollar cups of tea!