In a little under a week I will be ditching my Brendon Urie-clad walls, tiny twin-long, and distracting comfort of my own room to board a plane headed 1485 miles away to the Coastal Bend of Texas. The goal is to help with hurricane relief with my campus ministry. We have no idea what to expect, or what the organizations and churches we will be working with will ask of us. All we know is that we will be showing up, ready for anything.
I’ve never been to Texas. Nor have I been on a mission trip outside of my state. Needless to say, I’m excited. I’m excited to have an opportunity to go out and serve. I’m excited to share this opportunity with the friend family I’ve made in my faith community. The excitement also stems from, I think, a place of restlessness. Over the past weeks I’ve noticed my attention turning towards the routine of day to day, each uniform morning bleeding into a mundane afternoon followed by a predictable evening. Not even dying my hair a shade of mildy- horrendous maroon/auburn could throw a big enough wrench in a cyclical, contained pattern of plans.
I wrote recently about how I actually enjoy my wage job of rote labour, making sandwiches for hangry people for approximately 10 hours a week. Those 10 hours lend themselves to some pretty heavy introspective thinking, much of which has come to expose a sort of longing– a longing for a deeper significance, a heartfelt meaning, a bigger purpose, one that I wish didn’t include mulling around in general education courses as I’m trying to shape the rest of my academic/career life.
But I digress. I don’t want to go in with any expectations. Rather, I want to show up, discover, learn, and do.
I watched a TED Talk recently [lol, when am I not watching a TED Talk, tbh… Nothing like a good TED Talk to help you get motivated to do hours of homework on a Friday afternoon, amiright?] about the importance of stepping out of our comfortable social circles to expand our sphere of influence and ultimately, our opportunities. This talk was followed by another talk regarding the growing need for “strangeness” encounters in our social circles. This was more of a specific call to familiarize ourselves with the unfamiliar, because, as it turns out, the links we establish with those not in our immediate circles, but rather in the more obscure branches off of our familiarity, the “weaker links” in our social network. That being said, the most valuable thing we can do about it is to reach out to those relationships that are maybe more distant than we’re comfortable with. To put everything aside and just be present in the current moment of developing the relationship, without any expectations or agendas.
Fast forward to less than a week from now and, not only will being in Texas put me in regular contact with people that are perhaps on the outer edges of my inner circle, but I will be in a completely different landscape, frame of mind and network of people, most of which I will have never met before. And so I know it is part of the journey, the learning, the benefit, to completely shatter those walls of comfort, obliterate those self-established zones of “interest” and “non-interest” and just get out there and be with these people, to immerse myself in the strangeness– the simple, adventurous, benevolent strangeness.