Everyone spends their vacation taking care of a bunch of 5 year olds, right? That’s totally normal. And it’s especially normal to spend the last week of your summer trip helping out at a Vacation Bible School, correct?
That’s what I ended up doing, and while it doesn’t sound ideal in writing, it was honestly a blast. There’s something about purposefully pointing little kids to Jesus that stirs up your own soul. There’s also something about being the 6 foot 3 guy from Mississippi looking after a bunch of 5 year olds that makes you just want to try and blend in as best you can.
Sadly, there were forces set in play to make sure I couldn’t.
Thanks to Amanda knowing several of the leaders at VBS, I therefore ended up knowing several of the leaders at VBS. This led to me being called up on stage in front of everyone in order to read things in an over-the-top accent. That led to a handful of volunteers wanting to get to know me because I was from the South. Several people, in fact, came up to me saying that they loved the South, and then that they had connections/lived in Oklahoma. I just had to smile and nod, but it was cool. At least ONE guy lived in Georgia for a bit.
It was interesting that as they went out of their way to come over and talk to me, they would always mention how they loved Southern Hospitality, and that while Canadians are culturally polite, they don’t go out of their way to do so.
The picture I saw was very different. I saw a great Christian community that sacrificed mornings for a whole week in order to make sure little kids heard about Jesus. I saw a lot of people going out of their way to care about the spiritual health of these little ones. I saw a VBS coordinator with such a heart for them, she was moved to tears frequently because she cared.
Most moving, though, was something I saw on Thursday. See, all across this city, there are green ribbons hanging up around trees and light posts, attached to cars and business windows. They are there to show support for a little girl who two months ago was hit by a truck and suffered massive injuries. It’s honestly hard to drive anywhere here and escape the green ribbons.
On Thursday, there was a fundraiser held at a local Dairy Queen to help pay for the cost of treatments. A hockey player with a charity benefiting victims of head injuries was there, but this was an event that was put on by the caring members of the community. By the time Amanda and I showed up late in the afternoon, it was evident that hundreds and hundreds of people had turned up to buy ribbons, t-shirts, and of course ice cream treats, just for this girl and her family.
I can talk a lot about Southern Hospitality, and going out of our way for others. I can talk a lot about community, and what that really looks like. But really, there is no better example of community than our reaction to disaster, and Waterloo has been astounding. No community could be more bound together in their prayers and support for this little girl and this family.
Today, I start my drive back home. I’m ready to be back in the Dirty South, but at the same time, I’m not ready to leave Ontario. I’m not ready to say goodbye to time spent up at cottages and staring at rocky coasts on Lake Huron. I’m not ready to say goodbye to the Mennonites. I’m not ready to say goodbye to the culture that I’m only just now starting to understand.
But I’m really not ready to say goodbye to the people who have helped me understand it. The people who have gone out of their way to welcome me into their homes and into their lives. The people who have graciously taken me to cottages on rocky coasts overlooking Lake Huron.
You see, that’s what I’ll remember most about my Canadian summer: a lot of people who claimed they didn’t go out of their way to be polite, going well out of their way over and over again for their community, and even often for the sake of this misplaced Mississippian.
Goodbye for now, Canada. I’ll see you again soon.