Updated: Mar 15
One of the reasons I love living at Zooland Campground is I get to meet people from various backgrounds and places. Today I had a conversation with Chris and Becca from England.
While I was sitting at my table in our fifth wheel camper doing some writing I looked out the window and noticed that the couple I briefly met last week taking a walk. Immediately, I put my coat on and went outside. I noticed that they were walking hand in hand and were on their way to the pond. I decided they were enjoying some alone time. (They have two boys who appear to be around ten and eight). So I decided to take a walk around the campground. About fifteen minutes later, I walked by the pond and noticed they were sitting on the bench next to the pond. I walked up the pathway to the pond and stood about thirty yards away. I looked at the new fountain in the pond for about five minutes. Then I noticed the young couple from England were getting ready to leave.
I approached them and the conversation went pretty much like this:
Bart: Hello, I'm Bart!
Chris: I'm Chris!
Becca: I'm Becca!
Bart: I enjoyed seeing you last Thursday evening when we played Bingo at the lodge.
Becca: Yes, we enjoyed that too!
Bart: I recall you said you are both from England. I heard that you decided to move to the U.S.A. and live. What are some of the reasons you chose to live in the U.S.A.?
Chris: We find it to be a lovely place. We've traveled here before and we like it here!
We like the weather too especially in North Carolina.
Bart: (I nodded.) What are your vocations?
Chris: I'm in manufacturing. I lost my job in England and we decided we would move to North Carolina. Soon after we got approved to live in the U.S., we decided to come over and travel across the country for a while before I find a job. We spent some time sight seeing in Canada too. When we started traveling South to North Carolina, we ran into some winter weather in the Northeast and traveled South quicker than we first planned. The pipes on the camper froze so we scurried on down.
Bart: How long have you been at Zooland Campground?
Becca: One week now. We plan on being here for two more weeks.
Chris: I'm doing some job hunting while Becca home schools our sons.
Bart: I've always been fascinated by England. I've only spent two weeks there and two weeks in Ireland. I recall you saying last Thursday evening that you lived in a village near Cambridge. I've been to Oxford before. I've never been to Cambridge. I've always been fascinated by Cambridge.
Chris: That's right. That's actually the last place we lived for a little while. Most of our lives, we have lived in villages of about two to three-thousand persons. The village of Cambridge is quite lovely and there are some good pubs there too.
Bart: I wish we had some good pubs here in the U.S.A. Bars in the U.S.A. are not the same. Pubs in England and Ireland seem like a great family place where people meet to catch up on the news. I guess about the closest place we have here to a pub is a coffee shop.
Bart: What are some of the other differences you see in the cultures?
Chris: For one thing, the U.S. is a whole lot bigger!
Becca: And not near as old!
Bart: One of my concerns about the U.S.A. is that there is a caste system in the U.S. that many persons don't acknowledge. It's been around since pre-colonial days. Persons here are placed in societal categorizations based upon the color of our skin. For instance, one of my friends is from Africa. He told me, "Bart," "I didn't realize I was black until I moved to the U.S.A." I imagine that all cultures have some form of a better than/lesser than caste system.
Bart: What's it like in England?
Chris: It's very similar. There is a lot of division. I don't quite understand the reasons why.
Bart: My ancestry is mostly Scotch-Irish with some English, German, and Norwegian. What is your ancestry?
Chris: My surname actually comes from France. One-thousand years ago my ancestors left France and arrived in England. Ever since then, almost all of my family has lived within a thirty mile radius.
Becca: My family has always lived there too.
Bart: What about religion and faith? What is religion and faith like in England?
Chris: There's less of it. People there don't talk about their faith like they do here. It's private.
For instance, when we got married we got married in a real old church. I told the vicar that we wanted to use the wedding service from The Book of Common Prayer. He looked surprised and said I'll have to find it. I enjoy the traditional service.
Bart: I imagine he was really happy when you said that.
Bart: You must be Anglican?
Bart: I'm part of a lay movement started by John and Charles Wesley in the 1700
s that came out of the Anglican Church:The Methodist Church.
Becca and Chris nodded like they were familiar with The Methodist Church.
Bart: I served as a United Methodist minister full time for thirty-seven years. Then I started a L.L.C. that seeks to bring persons together across our differences. I'm concerned about the number of factions and division we see today. I work especially with persons who claim to be friends with Jesus. I tell them, if Jesus is our friend, his friends are our friends too. We have one Holy Father, the triune God. All human beings are our kin. When I'm honest about it, I realize that I have inherited a set of lenses that influence how I look at people. It's like I'm sitting in an optometrist's chair and receiving an eye exam. Lenses that encourage me to see persons through the perception of suspicious unexamined scripts have been placed before my eyes. History I've not looked at too closely allows cloud shaping bias to keep me from seeing the big picture God sees. Sometimes I find myself starting to pre-judge persons based upon societal categories based on outward appearance, societal class; any difference that might tempt me to treat others as lesser than. Then I think, wait... The person with whom I'm relating is a human being just like me. I pray, "God, help me get to know this person. This person is my kin. Relating with each other like this helps us take part in God's kindom building.
Becca and Chris looked at me with fascination. I wondered if they had ever had a conversation like this with a stranger before.
Bart: One reason I love living at Zooland Campground is that I get to meet persons from various backgrounds here. For instance, we have someone living here who flies a Confederate flag. He has stickers all over the rear windshield of his car. One sticker says: 'I shoot Yankees!' A couple of campsites over from him, there are two women who are from New Hampshire. They are a couple. I wonder what it would be like to get to know the couple from New Hampshire, get to know the man who flies the Confederate flag, and then help them get to know each other?
Chris, Becca, and I laughed....
Bart: I believe that if we could all come together and get to hear each other's stories, we would understand more about our differences. We would understand more about why each of us thinks the way we do and believes the way we do. The other day, I told Jenny Belle, the manager of the campground, "What would it look like if we had a big fire pit put somewhere here at the campground where we could gather once a week and share stories? That would be a lot of fun. We would laugh and hear some really fascinating stories too." That would be one way we could come together.
Becca: I think that's a grand idea.
Bart: I think so many persons who call ourselves Christian care more about being right than being in right relationship. Getting to know each other is much more important than trying to convince everyone else we're right.
Bart: I realize I'm preaching. Thank you for tolerating all my talking, Actually, more than the preacher in me, I think it's the Irish! They both laughed.
Becca and Chris both smiled.
Chris: We better get back and check on our boys.
Chris and Becca: Goodbye Bart!
As I reflect upon the conversation, I realize I did most of the talking. Perhaps I should have done a better job listening. I'm aware I can overwhelm people sometimes. I sense Becca and Chris are more reserved than me. Perhaps it's the English in them.
I'm still learning what it looks like to have conversations that lift up our Dear Friend and Big Brother Jesus.
All I know is that all I can do is be myself and hope that some how some way God will take what was shared and bless the conversation. I hope that I get to visit with Chris and Becca again. "Dear Creator, help me do a better job listening next time!"
In the mean time.... Cheers!
Until we chat again, dear God help us remember we get to know you by getting to know kin we have not yet met! Strangers become friends and the world gets closer!
Every new friend we make shines like rays of light dancing across baptismal water immersing shadows with glimpses of hope. Our Father God is at work in more ways than we can imagine to form connections introducing strangers to kin!
(A picture of the fountain at Zooland Campground...)