Forty years ago today I boarded a plane in Atlanta to set off on one of the great adventures of my life, three years in Thailand as a Peace Corps volunteer. Yesterday the Peace Corps announced all volunteers from 60 countries will be evacuated and brought home. My heart breaks for those volunteers, and I pray that the Peace Corps itself does not become a casualty of this pandemic.
It did not take long after I arrived in Thailand to realize that many of my assumptions and normal ways of doing things just weren’t going to work anymore. It wasn’t just learning a new language. Hand gestures mean different things in different cultures. Questions we would consider rude were acceptable. Dress that we would consider acceptable was rude. I was in a new world, and had to adjust to survive. In many ways, that’s where we are now. We’re in a new world where our normal ways of being don’t work anymore and we have to adjust to survive. That’s not always a bad thing. My three years in Thailand gave me new lenses through which to see the world, which still shape me today. I wonder how this experience will change us, how we will view the world differently once the pandemic has passed?
Today is also St. Patrick’s Day. No parades or green beer this year. But here’s a deeper meaning for the day — a verse from one of my favorite hymns, St. Patrick’s Breastplate (Hymn 370).Good words for us to hear:
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
Christ be with all of you.