Even though the deadline of support raising is coming close, I find myself wanting to recap an event from this past fall that is one of my favorite memories since returning from Japan: meeting the Italians! I had such a fortunate opportunity to spend time with some of the most passionate, most friendly, and most beautiful people I have ever met, and it was a great learning experience.
One day in November, I was sitting with a few friends in the Union on campus when I noticed a group come in. I do not know if I owe it to my international experience or just plain observation skills, but I could tell this group was not from nearby. Eventually, I approached one of their leaders and asked, "Excuse me, I was wondering where your group is from." He replied, "I'm sorry. I am not from here. I cannot help you." I laughed and
explained how I had noticed that and how I was wondering where they were from, and he told me Italia! I went back to my seat with my friends, but I desired to go speak with the bulk of the students, not even considering the fact that they might not speak English, honestly. Long story short, I mustered up some more boldness and ended up getting to sit and talk with them for about an hour!
Our conversation went from the tables of the Union to the steps outside, from state politics to free refills at Chick-fil-A. (Which blew their mind!) But I could immediately recognize their friendliness and welcoming demeanor because they offered me some of their drink and continued to talk with me! I discovered they were visiting MSU for the next 8 days, so I mentioned that I would love to hang out with them again before they left, and we exchanged contact information.
Before they moved on to the next leg of their trip (Memphis, TN), I was able to spend time with them on four different occasions (including the one just mentioned). I know I am a bit weird, but they always welcomed me whenever they saw me, always seeming sincerely excited to see me! One particular night, they had ordered pizza (from Pizza Hut - they did not care for it all that much; it was too thick), and when it arrived, they offered me some. I had just finished eating dinner, so I thought, I can eat A piece. Well. As I walked to my seat with my one piece, I was told to come over and three more huge pieces were put on my plate! I was like, "How am I going to eat all of this lest I make sport at their hospitality!" Fortunately, I was saved of eating more than one slice.
And their hospitality... If I got off my seat, it was almost like they pushed me back down. They got me a drink, silverware, food, plate, napkins, whatever. And when I tried to help clean up! I thought they would have killed me for trying! I was so impressed. They were also a people of passion where even their normal conversations going your blood pumping. (Of course, when volumes start rising, I think of a fight. When you do not know what they are saying, you never really know what is happening.)
But one thing that totally blew me away was how I was never seemed unwanted. They never sent me away; in fact, they invited me along with them their last night when they were going out. While I do not know if it could be called such, but their love for me seemed rather unconditional. They took care of me, treated me nicely, fed me, offered me drinks, whatever they could think of. So often individuals withhold love, waiting for others to break their hearts by wronging them or leaving them. Yet we knew from the beginning that our terms for friendship were short, yet I think we both allowed all to be poured out, knowing things would end soon.
Two memories will always remain the highlight from their visit: the first being a greeting from the second time we hung out. Culture clash: Americans shake hands; Europeans kiss on the cheeks. But when they do that, they might put their hands on your shoulders. So I approach hand out while this girl approached with her hands spread. Third culture clash: Southerners hug. I see this, so I spread my arms. She pulls back. I end up patting her shoulders before shaking hands. One of the most beautifully awkward moments of my life!
The second occurred with the same girl the last night we hung out. They had taught me how to kiss on the cheeks by this point, so no big deal. So when she says she is about to pack and go to bed, I get up to say goodbye by kissing her on the cheeks. Instead, she hugged me, to which my only reply was "Aww..." That moment really meant a lot to me.
Four days. Two languages. One love that can transcend it all and break down the strongest of barriers. May we all learn to love wildly and boldly, knowing we are all loved by God first!