We had an exchange in Calais this week as well as one here in Dunkerque. I got to see the larger, and less pretty city of Calais. The unemployment rate is ridiculously high there, supposedly something like 30%. After a few minutes spent there I had already noticed the side streets lined with abandoned, failed businesses. Every third store seemed to be a failed enterprise. It colored the city with a twinge of sadness. All the fancy custom made signs and all the clever logos didn't save those hope-driven stores from sinking. Their Hotel de Ville is absolutely gorgeous however and I will be sure to attach a picture! [See below] The exchanges were a lot of fun and effective. It is always a joy to spend some time with new missionaries and to learn who they are and how they do missionary work. We found a very nice lady named S. and a guy named D. who were excited to meet with us. We met another younger lady who wasn't quite sure if she believed in God or not. She wanted to but found it more complicated than that. So there on the street we whittled away a precious 30-40 minutes chatting about how we found he was there. How he loved her and was invested in her as a person. And how she could speak with him. It was a discussion of hope versus doubt. How do you believe in something? And what does that really change? My temporary companion for the day was Elder Shenkal, who is awesome, but still very new in the mission and required translations. So this moment of peace surrounded by busy shoppers played out across two languages.
Dunkerque continues to be a wonderful wacky place. It has been particularly alive given the Euro cup soccer excitement. America's year-round patriotism is pretty unrivaled but France's occasional selective patriotism is something to behold. I've never seen so many people using flags as capes in my life. There is a risk all 24 hours of the day that cars will start honking wars to express enthusiasm for the French team. People are just really pumped about soccer! Speaking of soccer, I remember fondly one day eons ago. We have young Mark Kim, young Alex Hacker, and slightly less young Parker Snow. Three rambunctious (and handsome) young boys who thought they were much cooler than we actually were. Parker was a big soccer enthusiast at the time. So Mark and I told him about the Spider Tail. "The spider tail is a fictitious soccer move in which the legs move so fast the player appears to viewers to have 9 legs (8 of which constitute the number of legs of the neighborhood spider, and the 9th being the legendary tail of the spider)." This story doesn't actually have any point, but is just a pleasant memory of slightly simpler days. When discussion of the spider tail would bring endless laughs.
Sincerity is something that I think gets really lost nowadays in the world. And when that happens, there are a lot of negative side effects. Being sincere is not only a principle of just about any canon of religious doctrine you can find, including being a fundamental principle of the one which I know to be true. It is something that makes you happy. It is something that makes one more humble. There is entirely way too much energy spent on being someone that you aren't, or telling yourself that you are something you aren't actually. I'm not sure which is more destructive. And both of these: going against what you truly think, love, and are, and/or lying to yourself about what you think, feel, have/haven't done... are enormous wastes of time and will do nothing. Being insincere is one of the few things that is just about entirely useless. It has no place! It is really not that fun either. There is a distinction between telling the truth and being sincere as well. Really learning to share who you with others and with the world. That is more what sincerity is to me. So be sincere. In everything you do.
I am loving my time in Dunkerque. Not as much as I love you guys but close!
Elder Alex Hacker