If you’ve graduated from uni, then you know how strange it feels to suddenly not be surrounded by all your friends. Maybe it’s different for you. For me, I made the choice to go to college in England. I don’t regret it at all. But that meant that graduating meant going home to America and separating from my friends – notably, my fellow co-blogger, Savvy. I miss you all dearly but I know that I’m not the only one feeling an absence of company. Many of my fellow graduates are experiencing the same thing.
At the same time, I’ve had a very humbling experience these past three months. Between feeling confident and feeling sorry for myself, I have met people who have faced, and still face, much more daunting circumstances. To start with, I take it for granted that I’m back in my own country, living with my family.
I’m working on a project which is basically an oral history of foreign-born residents in the Worcester County area. Each week, I’ve met and interviewed people who have immigrated to America to begin a new life. The first week was a gentleman from Albania who now runs his own business. The second week, I spoke with our cleaners; two sweet ladies from São Paulo who moved to America to give their children a safer and better educated life. Last week, a lady from England had me over for my first “proper cup of tea” since leaving the UK. We had a lovely time comparing English culture to American culture. (It was slightly reminiscent of when Savvy’s family took me in as fellow Americans in England.)
I’ve had even more conversations with the foreign-born people that I meet at work and at church. Their stories of breaking language barriers, finding a community to be a part of, and overall, adjusting to life in a foreign culture have inspired me immensely. As one of the Brazilian ladies said to me about moving to America:
“The start is a little hard…but as time goes, it gets better.”
I think of James 1:4 which says, “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
On top of that, working at a pub and grill means witnessing a lot of social gatherings but also encountering a few lonely people here and there. One of the waitresses spoke of a man who occasionally comes in expecting her to speak with him and listen to him even though she’s busy. We giggle and joke about it in the kitchen but, in reality, we sympathize with customers like that, coming in to take advantage of our friendly service out of loneliness. What do you do when the only person who chats with you is your waitress or bartender?
Meeting with foreign-born residents and our lonely customers has encouraged me to extend my own friendliness to someone else, instead of expecting them to extend their friendliness to me. It’s inspired me to be the person willing to listen to someone else’s story.
Because I know from experience how that’s what a lonely person needs. Someone who listens.