Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: NEWS (07/05/18)
TITLE: The Power of the Ordinary
By Jenny Fulton
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A tear fell down my cheek as my hand reached out to tenderly finger the postcard. It was a piece of home, far different from the world in which I now lived.
I reached out and brushed aside the curtains next to my bed. A narrow street. Brown apartment buildings. A small convenience store whose name I didn’t know. Street vendors selling baozi and er kuai.
The sense of nostalgia and homesickness amplified.
It wasn’t that I didn’t like living in China. Truth be told, most of the time I really enjoyed it, and there were extraordinarily beautiful places to be seen, even within the city. I loved the work I was doing and usually had little trouble filling my newsletters with plenty of interesting anecdotes of the novelties of life abroad.
But it wasn’t home.
My eyes returned to the postcard, and I turned it over to see my grandma’s clear, precise handwriting, as unique and noteworthy as the woman herself.
I smiled as I thought of her: tall and lean with no evidence of any extra fat (likely due to her notorious diet of coffee and salad), dark hair mixed with gray that had been pulled into a bun and covered by the sheer white bonnet of her church, a kind face with wrinkles that pulled easily into a smile, artist hands that painted canvases and fine china tea sets as steadily as they had ever done…
I imagined her sitting down at the table to write – coffee beside her, looking out the window at the birds who twittered about the bird feeders.
“Hi Doll!” her note began. “Wish you were here! No – from the sounds of your letters you are doing some great things there – so get the most out of it!”
The rest of the limited space on the postcard was filled with local news –the really important things that mattered to my grandma. There was mention of a wedding and who had come into town for it and information about who was leaving town and heading to college.
To most of the world, those tidbits wouldn’t qualify as news – they wouldn’t matter. But to my grandma and many others in that small town, they mattered a lot. And they mattered to me. It was news of life, of movement, of relationships, of people coming and going and living. Reading about the recent happenings in my hometown made me feel as though I was still a part of that community and that I mattered to them.
I looked at the postcard again and read my grandma’s concluding notes.
“I’ve really been enjoying your newsletters. You should write a book sometime. Love, Gma & Gpa.”
She believed in me, was rooting for me.
I felt rejuvenated, and even though there was still a bitter-sweet longing for the familiar, I now felt stronger and better able to embrace each new day here with greater purpose. A verse that had been brought to my attention during my first mission trip as a teenager came to mind.
Proverbs 25:25: Like cold water to a weary soul, so is good news from a distant land.
To those back home, it probably seemed like I was the one living the exciting, purposeful life, like I was the one with all the interesting stories to tell. However, I was beginning to understand that it was seeing the beauty and importance of the ordinary that gave life meaning and purpose. And now, being so far from home and all that had once been familiar, it was the normal, day-to-day news of those I loved that helped keep me going.
I picked up the postcard and found a place for it on my wall next to other pictures of Kansas. It felt good to surround myself by reminders of where I’d come from. Other places on my wall held favorite photographs of family and friends. These were walls of remembrance, of strength.
Packing space is limited when you travel, but I already knew that these pictures, and grandma’s postcards, would make the journey with me wherever I wandered.
*Based on true events and my Grandma Morya who wrote the best, newsiest postcards and letters during my time on mission trips and overseas.
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