It's been a pretty good feeling being back in the United States, to be perfectly honest I was outright excited to be coming back near the end of my trip and I feel like that contributed quite a bit to my lack of reacculturation. Since I've been home I have had a lot of opportunities to become engaged with the communities I live in, and I've been very grateful for that. I made a new friend when I first came back to campus, her name was Charissa and one night she talked to me about her potential move to Philadelphia next semester.
Like many people at Messiah College she was getting tired of the 'Messiah bubble,' surrounded by a mostly conservative viewpoint of life that is more often resilient to change than not. As I remember the story now, she had gone to church one day where the pastor told the congregation that they will never be happy anywhere else unless they are happy in the here and now. Charissa heard this and told me later on that week about how it had been affecting her, about how she felt that it would also be true for her in the midst of going to Philadelphia in order to escape Messiah. How can I say that 'life will be better when this happens, or if I get there or if I get that.' Life is a struggle at some point for absolutely everyone, and when it is our time to persevere it may feel that the world is falling in on us but then that's the joy of living. In terms of being happy through it all, Charissa made me think about the price of being content, and how many people sacrifice more than I will ever be able to imagine in order to simply and humbly say "I'm happy."
The first person to come to mind with that state of mind was a poor man with crutches named Marco. I saw him everyday when I would walk to school in Ecuador and didn't talk to him nearly as much as I should of. I do know that he was happy though. One of the most grateful people I've ever met, especially considering his circumstances.
For all of those students who will be going on a study abroad or looking for advice to give to someone leaving the country, the greatest encouragement I could offer is smiling. Teach yourself to be happy where you are at all times because no matter how hard things may be. Like time, it too shall pass. Through this you may express a gratitude for life in itself to God. Go and make stories for yourself, and then be generous both with them and in them.
Smile, I love you