Evan, age 3, squirms in front of the red background and the lady tries again and again to get her machine to work. One-year-old Renea is running through the immigration office. And I chase after her while calling to Evan to sit still and look forward for the nice lady with the camera.
And I just hope that these office workers, who have the power to kick me out of the country, like blond curls.
“Rebecca.” I hear my name in an accented voice just as I catch up to my daughter who is screaming with delight.
I turn around to see her. My Indonesian friend who has become a sister. She is here on her own immigration-related business. Before she gets to her stuff, she entertains Renea as I try somehow to get her to sit still, facing forward behind a red background for long enough to get a good picture.
While we wait for the visa to be granted, we exchange small talk—this friend and I—catching up on our activities and families. You wouldn’t know the depths of our relationship, and what we’ve seen happen in our lives, by listening to us.
Her lifelong longing to be loved by parents, her husband and a God she thought she had to impress with good works to get him to care about her. Her choice for faith that caused rejection from family. Her encouragement to me to chase dreams that scare me.
I leave the immigration office, thankful for many things. For office workers who do, as it turns out, love blonde curls. For a sister of a different culture who loves being an aunt to my kids, and a friend of my soul. And for living on an island small enough that I’d happen to run into her when I could most use her presence in my life.
Even when I don’t need her help, I love crossing paths with her. At the little restaurant with yummy chicken and rice. In the fruit store where you can also sometimes get cilantro and cheese. At the airport where you can count the number of daily commercial flights off this island on one hand.
This island—my world here—is small—only about five by 10 miles in size. There are no roads or bridges taking you away from here. I never go over 30 miles an hour because there are no highways. Come to think of it, there aren’t even any speed limits.
The grocery stores are tiny, and I know most of their owners. If I go to a big Indonesian wedding, I see them all there—the lady who gives me a 1 percent discount sitting next to the guy who owns the store that always has cat food in stock.
But this world of mine is also big. I can count 10 different languages spoken by just the friends I know. I live near places I’d never before been to in the States—Buddhist temples, Muslim mosques, Hindu statues.
And I experience things I’d never known before back when I lived in a country of BIG—big cars, wide highways, huge states, spacious houses, tall people. I can speak somewhat decently in a language most Americans have never heard, and yet is spoken by 200 million people in this country. I know people who have experienced earthquakes and seen terrorist attacks that are famous throughout the world.
And my husband and I are living a dream that is big—involving years of preparation, thousands of dollars’ worth of donations and countless lives affected because of a huge God that cares about even the tiny.
He has expanded my own world in this small place. As a mom, I learn big lessons through the little people in my life. As a wife, I am the recipient of amazing love promised with the exchange of small rings. As a follower of my Rescuer, I get to be part of an eternal love story by doing the tiniest acts of kindness. And a friend, I reap the benefit of relationships that run deeper than small talk with love bigger than mere exchanged interests.
What about you? Does your world feel small? Are you at home with your kids, sometimes feeling trapped by four walls and nap times and dirty diapers? Are you in a cubicle, where you spend your life working to earn too-small numbers on a check? Do you live in a town that is five by 10 miles in size and long to enter a world far beyond your reach?
Then join me as we look around for people who are from other worlds, or care for children who will grow up in a world unlike our own, or seek opportunities that get us out of our four walls and our fears and our islands of self.
photo credit, Per Ola Wiberg ~ Powi