Thursday, July 16, 2009

"Bread for the Journey"

Many people during orientation have given us ideas, tidbits, and advice about this endeavor. I am taking the opportunity to record them here, for continued contemplation and hope, as we need it in the days to come.

• Receive grace freely
• Use moderation in all things, including moderation
• Allow yourself to experiment-humbly, thoughtfully, and with regard to your interactive style.
• Practice centering prayer
• Remember, everyone who goes overseas fails at something.
• Learn local sensitivities-find a cultural gatekeeper to help you make interpretations
• Others will be ready to listen after, and only after they have been heard and understood.
• Connect with and delight with people.
• Want less
• Practice gratitude
• Schedule times of listening and learning, and cultivate a disposition of inquiry.
• Integrate yourself in heart, mind, body, and soul.
• Beware of little flowers (perhaps you had to be there)
• If you can do nothing else, take care of your body.
• Put your agenda on hold so there is space for the other person or the larger community to work on their agenda, their attachments, their transitions, their evolving treasured objects.
• Draw on the wisdom of local people.
• Know what you need.
• Listen loosely to words and tightly to meaning.
• Understand that listening is about respect, not agreement.
• Seek out stories of hope and perserverance.
• Be intentional about what it means to be a servant.
• Don’t just go through rituals, let them transform you.
• Be aware of subtle power.
• Write down stories and memories while they are given to you.
• Trust your instincts.
• Engage your heart.
• First, do no harm.
• Understand both the gift of listening and the gift of speaking.
• Remember the voices of blessing that sent you.
• Save away some money for a family get away.
• When you get there, write down all that you hear, see, smell, feel, and taste. Refer to it later.
• It’s OK to laugh in the midst of sorrow.
• Set aside some intentional time for your family to speak Spanish (one meal a day, one day a week, whatever).
• Make sure you get enough language study.
• Help your children stay connected to friends and relatives.
• Immerse yourself in school connections and the families of your children’s friends.
• Snuggle with your kids.
• When you are so overwhelmed it seems to hurt, sleep, be gentle with yourself and with those you love around you.
• Each day, write down three blessings. For each one, think about how you made them happen.
• Gratitude dissolves depression.

So, thank you Urbane, Michelle, Titus, Nancy, Linda, Amy, Kathy, Karl, fellow orientees, and all the others who contributed this wisdom. What advice do the blog readers out there have for us? (Leave a comment)


  1. Hold this wisdom close. I like the one about taking care of your body. Needed to hear that.

  2. • Use moderation in all things, including moderation

    • When you are so overwhelmed it seems to hurt, sleep, be gentle with yourself and with those you love around you.

    • Gratitude dissolves depression.

    oh, i love so many of these. do you want me to print them out for you?

    i'm so grateful for the community you've found already.

  3. p.s. i can't believe you have an address!!!!

  4. these remind me of the "golden rules for mental health professionals" that have been given to me over the years and which I pass on to every trainee I can - hadn't thought of them in the cross-cultural context, but may apply:
    #1 was given by my "fairy godmother" mentor+more in med school when I was concerned about the damage I might do with bits of knowledge: "you rarely do damage by listening, and helping someone listen to his/herself".
    #2 from my supervisor in child fellowship, when I persisted in a seemingly hopeless case of a 15 year old prostitute living in and out of her incredibly violent home: "it's good to have 1 or 2 rescue fantasy-type cases in your load at any given time - they keep you wanting to learn more and be able to help better; less and you've gotten stale and falsely proud, more and you'll burn out quick".
    #3 early in practice as I worked with parents who wanted to wait to work on their own issues till after their kids were better; some kids had too many issues for one little body and some parents had more than enough issues for the both of them: "the caregiver must survive. If the child survives but the caregiver has burned out, the child will be lost as well. If the child is overwhelmed and enters the system but the caregiver survives, there is hope they will both see a brighter future."
    #? Another one I sometimes add for parents in the business, from a supervisor who was both an admirably compassionate and helpful psychiatrist, and also had raised wonderful kids to adulthood, when I asked about how to balance that: "try to avoid working with clients the ages of your kids". I can sure affirm that. The lesson is about protecting family boundaries, doing whatever is appropriate where you are to be present for them as yourself, not behind the mechanisms you use to be present for those outside the home - and to allow yourself to be appropriately present for those outside, unless you truly do want to take them away from where they are to be within your family.
    Wherever you go, God is already there before you get there. prayers for you all - Deb Bergen

  5. HI! Hi! Did you make it? Did all the luggage make it? Is there an elevator?

    I love you soooooooooooooo! And am so very proud of you! (this is the only way I could figure out how to get to you!

    Be good, be kind, be careful, learn lots and have fun! And all ways, always remember that we are loving you...................

  6. I just stumbled upon your blog and am glad I did. Blessings and good luck to you as you get settled in Colombia.

    -Allison Boehm Lehman

  7. dear ones,
    i'm thinking of you lots. i cried this morning as i read through your blog. (i'm new here. thanks for putting it together and writing! i'll certainly follow.) i especially cried reading the sign from akron - you have to leave your house to learn. some days i just want to stay home. but i'm usually overwhelmingly grateful when i leave it too.
    lots of love to you all, and grace for the journey,