This week I’m sharing reflections from a recent “trip of a lifetime” to Italy. Growing up I never imagined seeing in person what I read about in history books. As I traveled throughout Italy, three words kept coming to me in everything that I saw or experienced. They were acceptance, love, and awe. This is different from my normal blog, but I hope you enjoy it.
We like our independence, doing it ourselves. Yet deep down there is a stronger inner desire to belong, to be accepted for who we are, warts and all. Traveling in a foreign country, I surprisingly didn’t feel alone, it was quite the opposite. I felt acceptance everywhere we went. In my interactions with people from many different countries, I was struck with the realization that Italy accepted us, and everyone we met was accepting of each other.
Language wasn’t a barrier; I think it was expected because of the proximity of so many other countries who all retain their own language. I asked a waiter in the small town of Manarola how many languages he spoke, his response was “too many, I can’t keep them all straight in my head.” He spoke three fluently and enough of many others to engage in conversations with visitors. My few words of Italian didn’t matter. No one said to me, “Why don’t you learn to speak Italian?” as I’ve heard people rudely say in our country to someone who was visiting. My minimal proficiency was only met with smiles and assistance. In a supermarket when I didn’t understand their methodology for purchasing fruit (I had to weigh it and price it), she smiled, walked me to the scales and speaking very little English showed me how. In restaurants, I never went hungry with either the wait staff or people at the table next to us helping. Trust me, I never couldn’t order something. Wouldn’t the world be better if we were 1) more helpful, 2) less judgmental and 3) more accepting of others. That’s a goal of mine going forward.
I saw love everywhere and with affection. The anger I feel in the US was replaced with love. And not just those on vacation. My observation was Italians and those from other countries are more outwardly affectionate with family and friends. I think we are too reserved in displays of affection for friends and family. We need more love. One especially touching moment happened in the Rome subway system. A young girl in her 20’s with her grandmother got on and stood next to us in a crowded car. Her grandmother appeared very anxious about the trip, possibly it was her first subway adventure. As more people crowded in at each stop, I noticed the anxiety in her eyes grow, darting around at all she saw. Sensing the anxiety, the granddaughter first spoke words, but it didn’t seem to work. She then wrapped her arm around her grandmother, pulled her tightly to her chest and gently kissed her forehead. Love. And with that small gesture, grandma relaxed. Love! We need more of it.
A common phrase of mine was, “I’m in awe”. Everything I saw, all created centuries before I was born. St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, the Cathedral in Florence with its famous dome and Venice. All magnificent.
The physical beauty of the country reminded me when God created the heavens and earth, he made a masterpiece. This was no accident or big bang. I’ve not experienced beauty like the Amalfi coast or the coastline in Cinque Terre. Stunning! Spectacular! There aren’t enough adjectives to describe it.
On your best and worst days remember the God who created what we saw also created you and me. We too are God’s masterpiece, created for a unique purpose. And God doesn’t create junk. Never forget it.
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)