Moving is hard, even if it’s just to a different part of the city you live in. It means leaving behind things, regular routines, and, oftentimes, people. It means adding to the map in your head of what the world looks and feels like. It means getting lost on occasion and discovering something new. There’s apprehension in moving and fear and grief. There’s the giving up of the familiar. But people move. They do it every day. They get through it.
My brother is an avid mover, a risk taker. As a chef, he finds himself moving from restaurant to restaurant, from city to city. When he first told me some years ago that he was going to move from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to New York City, I was impressed and excited. I could add him to my list of people to stay with when I wanted to head east. What a gutsy thing to do! I admired his desire to drop it all and start again in a new city. And I was also jealous. I wanted that kind of adventure. I wanted to get up and go. And I didn’t think that I would ever find it in me to do what he was doing. After all, my husband is a pastor and the first church he was sent to out of seminary was in Iowa. No offense to my dear, dear Iowa friends, but when I first found out we’d be moving to Iowa, I was horrified. I thought, “I’m giving up my great paying job and friends I love for….Iowa?!?” But I didn’t drag my heels. I went, and I loved it.
I loved the way the light hit the corn stalks in the fields right before harvest. I loved those gravel roads. I loved living in a big city surrounded by corn and bean fields. I loved the people I met, the students I taught, and the friends who became my own. I loved it all so much that it was heart wrenching to tell them in March that chances were good that we would be leaving for something so terrifying and so exciting as Australia.
In the places I have lived, I have been surrounded by a community of friends and family. When I went away to boarding school in 1991, a community awaited me. Immediately I was thrust into the midst of 200 other high school students from different states and countries: a ready-made, albeit teenage, community. I made close friends, some I’ve kept in contact with to this day. When I went away to college in Minnesota, my community started off small – just the people in my dorm or classes – and grew when I began working at the university. In Iowa, I found another ready-made community in my church and in my job. Why was it that the one thing I was most afraid of about moving 9,000 miles from home was finding that community?
This morning I sat in church playing hymns for my community. The warm breeze was blowing through the open windows, and I could hear the commotion of the Sunday Markets at Old Petrie Town where we have church. As I played the opening verse of “Amazing Grace,” I found myself smiling because one voice seemed to overpower everyone’s in that church. It was the voice of a 9 year old girl who I’ve grown to adore. She is feisty and smart and, oh, so hilarious. She loves to sing, and I could tell that this song was one she was confident of. Her voice carried the group through all 4 verses.
This community I have found halfway around the world is a small one, but it gets more and more beautiful as the days pass by.