Greetings from a kinda comfortable seat in a metro under Paris!
How is everybody? (X relative) has lost weight! My how the kids have grown! Etc!!! I am happy to be able to write you all about the week that's slipped away beneath my feet.
Friday morning was spent at Celestine's house! She has the flu so we didn't stay long. It was still a very pleasant time spent together. After we came back to the apartment for lunch and some studies. (Don't worry I'm about to stop talking about what I did this week and launch into some anecdote) I went to the fridge to get some orange juice. And the juice was still there. So let me explain how the orange juice worked in the Hacker Household back in the day. We didn't buy orange juice for the early part of my life-- I don't think we were impoverished or anything but I guess it was more so on the luxury, we'll-live-without radar! And than we starting getting orange juice. That was a good time to be alive. Orange juice had such a powerful influence on how the morning would turn out! It made everything brighter and happier and more colorful. So my younger siblings come into existence and they decide that orange juice was something they were going to drink at all hours of the day and no longer a morning thing. Shortly thereafter there was no more orange juice in the fridge :( They would drink it way too fast and even worse they would drink it at times when they weren't supposed to like dinner or before bed. So I didn't drink much orange juice anymore because I wanted them to have it even though they misused it. And I was low-key bitter about that for like 10 years... until this Friday morning, Boom, fridge with plenty of juice. I'm more excited than I have any right to be as I'm pouring a cup. And then... the feeling of drinking orange juice just wasn't as good as the feeling of knowing my siblings were drinking orange juice. Turns out I didn't have anything to be bitter about the whole time.
Spectacular train mix up this week! We didn't take a train going in the wrong direction per-say, just one that kindly elected to avoid most of the stops we thought he would hit. Paris has a bunch of subway lines and a few larger train lines (also a few lines at Subway for sandwiches-- that one literally wasn't funny) and it's enough to say I don't know them as well as I thought I did. There is one particular, the C line, that has life twenty different routes it takes and goes all over the place and crawls about Paris like a drunken inchworm. Though kinda fast still. So this drunk inchworm may have taken us waaaay outside of our sector :)
Following that little train swipity swap I was reflecting that being inadequate and failing shouldn't be so frustrating an experience. I had a hard time really learning this particular lesson in 21 years! Who amongst those reading these emails who wasn't born before the invention of slides remembers what it's like to be a child running up a slide? Not the curvy tube slide either, that's too easy to climb up. We're talking the steepest, fastest, most straight slide in the whole playground. Running up a slide always felt like such an achievement! I felt much too prideful every time young Elder Hacker showed himself better than measly stairs! So one summer day I thought I could handle the steep red slide at Lion's Park. I made it what surely felt like 3/4 of the way up (Any spectators would have seen I probably only made it up 1/2 the slide) and then there was a moment of chagrin. I paused and held myself there for a few seconds struggling to accept that I had failed...
And than I let go... Sometimes that's the hardest part...
...And I had a grand old time slipping back down into humility and playground gravel as soft as playground gravel can be! Those three seconds of sliding turned out to be pretty darn fun! It was arguably better than sliding while facing forwards!
I've been learning that's its kind of the same thing. Basically all the time. You get credit and have fun even when you don't make it up the slide. Whether it's the gospel,a high school acting career, being a parent, playing sports, the terrifying world of higher education, being a missionary, writing, dancing, life in general! From the most important, lofty, and significant things down to those meaningless events that play out on a playground! J'y crois! Humility leads to peace. As I continue to fail and slide and make as many mistakes as I did at every other point in my life (Though I will say I've found much better slides to run up recently), I've learned to have a lot more fun on the way down. In the words of a modern poet, Bob Ross, "there are no mistakes, only happy accidents." :)
This Saturday we were just leaving a teaching appointment and I remember feeling vaguely frustrated. It just hadn't come out the way we wanted it to. We had prepared as much we could without being redundant, we had done our best to explain things, all three of us were willing to listen to one another, etc... and it just didn't work out. It was kind of awkward and conversation just sort of turned in place. And that frustration came from thinking I was effectively entitled to success and good results based on everything I'd done. I thought I had the right to succeed because I'd taken some "necessary measures" I'd defined. Just like the whole slide thing! Sometimes it doesn't work out. More often than not I'm not enough! I couldn't make it up that slide and I couldn't make that lesson come out the way I wanted. And that's ok.
Another things that's pretty cool is that I think there are lots of people waiting at the top of slide to catch us! Like Catcher in the Rye. Catcher on the Slide! Example: Just this week I got an email from a dear friend that spoke to me in many ways. You've got family, friends, sweet high school English teachers, etc... all waiting to pull you up the rest of the way. Short-lived mortality wouldn't be half as wild an experience were we to face it alone. And that's another part of humility that's pretty important I've been learning. Relying on and trusting in others. It's funny sometimes how dependent we soft squishy humans can be on the affirmation of others. Or maybe it's intentionally designed! That way we are more humble. That way we need each other. That way we want to have families and longer term relationships instead of crumbly short lived interactions. That way we need a God to love us. That way we're pushed towards our responsibilities to love and carry and drag one another towards good things. So catch someone who's falling down a slide this week if you please.
I realized that I'm only here in France for 6 more months late Wednesday night. I mean I knew before... there have been many reminders of late. It's a lot like the feeling you get when you're 3/4 of the way through watching one of your favorite films. The slight anxiety of knowing it's nearing the end that eventually gives way to the resigned enthusiasm of just enjoying what's left of the ride. Though it clicked this Wednesday evening during a calm evening of tranquility, "Yo Elder Hacker that's not enough. Enjoying what's "left of the ride" isn't enough. You will never do this again. You won't ever have this set of circumstances, this many pastries, this group of friends, this fantastic and fulfilling service to which you can dedicate literally all your time. You don't have to worry about that continued education thing, the whole finances thing, etc... this is the only time you will be able to do what you love 24/7... provided this is really what you love?" And that poignant paraphrasing pierced my heart.
Last testimony thingy:
Pssst... do you want to know who's the best at waiting at the tops of slides to catch people? Even more reliable than a mother waiting at the bottom to catch her child?
Who are pretty dang reliable, mothers!
... It's Jesus.
So that's the weekly report from this end. I am too grateful and happy to be here. Seriously! Too much gratitude. People are probably annoyed by the frequency with which I say thanks! So thank you everyone who read any of this and thank you for doing all the things you during any given week.
-Elder Alex Hacker
Follow up Email that same day from Alex:
Number of people who sent pictures of them drinking orange juice made me die of joy :) Thank you all for that!