As some of you may know, Jimmy and I just returned from a wonderful trip to Italy. We learned some new things about Italian art and history, the Italian culture and enjoyed the breathtaking countryside. We had great food every day (including Gelato!). But the best part was the people we met - especially those who shared a little of their life with us. Let me tell you about a few of them.
We met a restaurant manager, Alfredo, who taught us the importance of Italian hospitality. He brought home the Italian idea that meal time is a time to pause and celebrate the day, the food and the company. Then he encouraged us to try to order in Italian. Next he took out a pencil and paper and gave us a lesson in how different letters and combinations of letters were pronounced in Italian, the importance of“peci” pasta to the region, how it is made and how to pronounce it. (It’s “peachy”) When I asked him how he learned English, he said he learned from his customers. And so now he likes to help his customers learn Italian.
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Luigi De Martino was our driver in Sorrento. He was great at his job. He spent a lot of time learning about us and telling us about his life and family. Luigi made our day special. In every little village we drove through he rolled down his window and talked to the people we passed. Then he told us a little bit of their story. He took us to his wife’s family farm where he introduced us to everyone there - the cooks, the waiters, and his family. We enjoyed a wonderful long meal and then joined in a wonderful family birthday celebration for his father’s 93rd birthday. (The rum soaked cake was wonderful and they sang the same Happy Birthday song we do.)
We stayed several days on a farm in Tuscany. The farm has been in the family for 5 generations. Four generations are currently living on the farm. To a large extent they are self sustaining - growing grapes for wine, making olive oil from olives grown on their land, have a variety of fruit trees, huge vegetable and herb gardens and livestock. Laura, the mom and Martina, the grandma work side by side preparing meals for guests, preserving crops and caring for Laura’s 2 daughters.
What was most impressive to me was how these busy people merged their work life and family life into one and welcomed the people they met to be a part of it.
Some other wonderfully kind people crossed our path more briefly. There was the young man who saw me struggling with my suitcase on a flight of stairs and just took it from my hand and carried it down the stairs and waited for me to meet him at the bottom. There was the cab driver who got out of his cab to ask if we were lost (we had that look about us). Then he kindly directed us to our destination.
Once we got home I thought about how these wonderful people modeled missional living for us. It would have been a very different journey without them. It seemed so natural for them to show caring, respect, compassion and good old fashioned hospitality as they went about their day. I want to be more like that.
Now I’m looking forward to continuing my missional living journey along side all of you at Mason UMC. Beginning in January Mason UMC will be expanding our discipleship pathways with a new offering including components of discovering, doing and celebrating. We’ll be hearing more about it in the next few months.