No Longer Strangers

“Hey, do you have five minutes? I’d like to do your hair for free!”
The question hit me by surprise as I was walking around the duty free area at the airport. Normally, I’m not a person who likes to be sold something to and I’m not into beauty products either, but I had some time until boarding and the guy just looked too friendly, so I agreed.

I expected him to tell me about some fancy new product which would make my life so much better. I expected him to sell me something I’d regret later on.

I didn’t expect what happened next.

He brushed my hair and started to straighten it. I am too lazy to do it most of the time, so I really enjoyed this extra service.
He asked me where I was going and what my life was like. We chatted about big city life and international food and how different people were. We exchanged the best advice on where to travel next.
He told me that he was from Bulgaria and how he had left his home country to start a career as a styling artist in New York City. And how he had ended up in a small place like Stuttgart. He admitted that he really struggled to connect with the always fast-paced, efficient and often brisk Germans.

We did not talk one word about beauty products or sales.

The ‘five minutes’ turned into twenty minutes and I left with straight smooth hair and a really big smile on my face. “Thank you for this treat”, I said as I walked out the booth. “No, thank you”, the guy replied. “I wanted to do your hair, but I got something much better: A real conversation with a nice person. You truly made my day.”

It doesn’t take much to change someone’s day for the better.
Little gestures, a few words – that’s all it takes to make someone feel welcome. You’re no longer a stranger. You belong.  
Why don’t we do it more often?


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

When You’re Stuck at a Wall

Cold.
Grey.
Impenetrable.

I take a step back to take in the vast magnitude of this wall.
I walk left, I turn back right.
Try to find a way across this barrier, but I always come back to the same grey spot.
I end up at this wall that has risen up around my heart.
I’m stuck.

In this dark night of the soul I circle around the same questions, I wrestle with the same doubts, I wonder how much longer I have to stay in this place.
I want to move on, get out of this place.
I long to go back to a time before the wall when everything seemed so simple and clear.
I grow restless and impatient.
I take a moment to pause and listen.

And that’s when it happens.

I hear a “what if” deep inside of me.

What if there’s no way back and I am meant to be here?
What if the beauty of the journey is not the destination but the movement in between?
What if the grey is actually a colored space to live in?
What if the wilderness is not an empty place but a home for weary travelers, creators, doubters and feeble believers?
What if being stuck is the call to surrender, grow and actually live?


Linking up with Five Minute Friday.

 

It’s Different Than You Think

Since I have lived in many different places, it happened quite a few times that people have asked me which of my homes is the best.
How can I even compare them? Each country and culture is so unique, all of them have their strengths and challenges, none is superior to the other.

“There is no better or worse. There is just different. In the most wonderful way.”

Every day we are surrounded by all kinds of people.
If I just glance around the people walking on the street, the students in my classroom, the friends I hang out with – I see diversity.
Our social media channels and political conversations are full of debates on how to create community in our diversity. There are too many voices that say some are better than others, there are too many boxes we sort each other in, there is too deep fear of the other that ultimately separates us from ourselves.

But what if we changed perspective for a moment?
What if we saw the people around us not as “the other”, but as mirrors of ourselves? What if we gave them the chance to reveal a little more to us about the world and what it means to be human?
What if we allowed each other to share a glimpse of the eternal together?

If we look closer, we are more connected than we think.
We are unique in our lives, characters and talents.
Each of our stories deserves to be told and heard.

There’s no better or worse.
We’re just different.
In the most wonderful way.


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.
Cover Photo: Pujohn Das on Unsplash

Is This My Life?

Get up.
Go to work. Teach class after class. Talk to students. Discuss with colleagues.
Go home. Quickly eat something. Grade papers or prepare for the next classes.
Look at all the emails and feel slightly under pressure: When should I do all that?
Fall into bed exhausted.

That’s what my life was like in the last few weeks.
Busy, exhausting, draining.
There’s a routine and I have no choice but to run with it.
So I functioned, but I haven’t really lived.

No matter how long we’ve been on this faith journey, it’s very easy to fall into a routine. Pray.
Go to church.
Say the right things at the right time.
Stay away from all the wrong things and people.
Keep up the facade of the perfect little Christian.
We look good, we function, but we aren’t actually thriving.

I have come to give them life. Life in abundance.

That’s what I cling to in weeks of stress and exhaustion and dullness.
Yes, our lives should have some sort of security and regularity, but it should never pen us in.
There has to be a place where we can be ourselves.
There always has to be space for spontaneity and an element of surprise.
There should always be time to dream.
There should always be time to do nothing at all and rest for a while.
There must always be time to live, live to the fullest.


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

Fighting in the Dark

Last week didn’t start off too well.
On Tuesday I had to leave work early because a headache kept bothering me. By the time I made it home, a fever and cough joined in and I came down with the flu. For the last few days, I’ve just been at home in bed.
Being sick is never really beautiful.

Suddenly, I had all this time at my hand, which was kind of confusing at first.
I followed the news about the people suffering in Syria as the war rages on and the world continues watching.
I listened to a teenager explain the political dilemma on gun violence in the US after the Florida shooting.
I read up on ethical fashion and the damage our outrageous materialism does to other people and the ecosystem.
I worried about all the work I couldn’t do now and how much behind that would put me.
I looked out the window into beautiful sunshine, only to remember that I was too sick to go outside.
No, this week was definitely not beautiful.

Depending on our focus, this life can quickly become exhausting and dull and hopeless.
This world can so easily drain life and its sense for beauty.

In weeks like this one, it’s not easy to find beauty, so I have to fight for it even harder. 
I look out for the sunshine and bask in the rays that made it through my window.
I decide not to worry about all the undone work, but instead enjoy the time of rest I have been given.
I dive into a good novel and get lost in the story, simply because I have the time for it.
I appreciate that I don’t have to set any alarm clock but can just sleep however long my body needs to.
I pause and pray and hope for the One who sees it all and creates beauty in the midst of all our mess.

In a world darkened with suffering and pain and confusion, we can need any sense of beauty we can get. So tell me, where have you discovered beauty this week?  


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

I Don’t Deserve This

Mornings at home.
A huge window with a perfect view of the sky.
Warm covers to snuggle in.
Eight hours of peaceful sleep.
A full refrigerator with too many choices of what to eat.
A safe job and friendly colleagues.
No worries about money every month.
Friends who are just a phone call away.
A family that supports and encourages me.
Unexpected coffee dates during the week.
A golden sunset after a long day at work.
Carnival break which starts in a few hours.
A full calendar with plans for the future and lots of things to be excited for.
Free access to education, entertainment and information.
Free thinking and controversial discussions.

I didn’t earn this. Too many people on this planet are not as fortunate and have to suffer from poverty, hunger, lack of education, oppression, slavery.

When I look at just this week, I realize: I’m surrounded by pure grace.
My life is enriched by heavenly gifts.
It’s a privilege and I never want to take it for granted.
Instead, I want to practice gratitude. For everything, in everything.

What can you be grateful for this week?


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

Going Beyond My Own World

I admire my friends.
They impress me with the way they live their lives, challenge themselves, travel around the world, invest in people, grow through hardships, persevere in the darkness.

One thing I admire about them is that they are brave with their thoughts.
They open themselves to all kinds of ideas and stories and surround themselves with people from all kinds of lifestyles.
They subscribe to channels that tell them a different story.
They engage in discussions and allow themselves to be challenged by opposing views.

I must admit, I’m not always that brave. 

There are conversations I rather avoid because they make me feel inadequate.
There are topics I don’t always want to discuss.
There are people I don’t listen to because they disagree with me and make me feel uncomfortable, uncertain of myself, unsafe about life.

And yet, I want to be brave.
In fact, I have to. 

I want to break out of my own mind, my own circles, my own world.
I want to discuss, engage and invest, no matter if we agree or not. We might agree to disagree and yet remain friends.
I want to read and watch and listen to things that are beyond my own horizon.
I want to discover the great thoughts that are out there and surround myself with people who blow my mind.
That can be uncomfortable and challenging at times, but in the end it is the only way to a deeper knowledge, a greater wisdom, a richer life.


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.