11 November, 2016

Christmas present mis-adventure

My days recently have been a mishmash of editing at various levels and for two different publications. But yesterday afternoon I'd planned to take a couple of hours to meet a friend at the gym and work out. Unfortunately I forgot that I'd also been tasked with the job of posting our Christmas presents to family in Australia.

I was absorbed in editing when I realised time was running away from me and I hadn't had lunch. While preparing my simple lunch I realised this was my last lunch time at home on my own this week and I hadn't listened to a sermon from our home church as is my general custom once a week during my lunch.

So I ate lunch and listened to the 45 min sermon. Then it was 1.37pm and I'd agreed to meet my friend at the gym 1 km from my house at 2, so in a moment of amnesia I thought I could get one or two more things done on the computer. After about 10 minutes of that the realisation that I had these two boxes to post re-arrived in my short term memory. So I grabbed the boxes, only to realise that they didn't have addresses on them.

One address I could remember, the other I had to message my husband to check. Before I left I checked the cash in my purse (we rarely use credit cards in Japan) and decided it should be enough, after all, the reason for doing it this early was to use the cheaper SAL.

Then I got my jacket, scarf, gloves, and helmet and fitted the boxes into my bike baskets. It was already 2pm so I also messaged my friend telling her I was running late.

I rode to the post office feeling pressured but not realizing things were about to get worse. I soon found out that I didn't have enough cash for both boxes. So decided to at least get one off. Then the SAL form was more detailed than I remembered (it's been a few years since I filled one out, I think David did it last year, we don't send big parcels often). I had to remember the contents exactly: what and how many and how much it cost.

The deal buster was the little bit at the bottom of the form that asked me to advise the postal service what to do if they couldn't deliver the parcel. The choices were: return it to sender, throw it away, or send it to another address. I wanted to send it to another address in the same town, but couldn't remember any addresses of other family members and didn't have that information on me. Frustration!

Finally I decided to abandon the whole expedition. In the end it took me 45 minutes to get two SAL forms, because that is all I achieved (apart from knowing how expensive this would be). I was late to meet my friend, but managed to catch her in the end, even if she left before I was done working out.

Why did I tell you this story?
I typed most of this sad little tale on my phone standing on the train on the way home from a meeting today. Now it is 8pm and ever since I typed the above I've been questioning the purpose of telling you the story.

Here are some possibilities:

1. I'm not complaining, just a bit frustrated that something that shouldn't have been so difficult became difficult and meant that I broke my promise to be at a certain place at a certain time plus it was inconvenient to have to go back a second time. 
2. Language wasn't an issue, that's something to be thankful for: there was a time in my life in this country when I dreaded going to the post office.
3. It's just a slice of my ordinary life that fits into the purpose of this blog: my life isn't so different from most of yours in many ways, there are many things that I do that you can relate to, even if they get achieved in a different way (like riding with boxes on my bike and using cash).

4. The other noteworthy thing is the challenge it is for us to do Christmas away from our families. We've only been in Australia for three Christmases in the last 16 years. That's a challenge not so much becuase we feel homesick—because we don't really, we miss family, but not in a way that affects our day-to-day functioning and emotions. It's a challenge because we don't know our families as well as we used to and we almost never see their reaction to a present we give them. Buying presents for them, that we can afford to post, is getting harder and harder simply because we don't know them well enough anymore and that is sad. We've gone simple this year, but of course I'm not going to tell you how, 'cause some of them read my blog.

So I guess I wanted to show you a little of the reality of missionaries dealing with living away from family. It is harder to stay in touch, to function as extended families. It takes effort, hopefully that effort comes from both sides. But the truth I've discovered as I've gotten to know more missionaries more deeply is that most find there are significant difficulties with family back home. Not all members of an extended family, but in almost all cases there are some problems, particularly with family not understanding the life of the missionary or not caring to hear about it.

I know that no families are "normal", no families are without strife—that is just a myth. However it does seem that mission puts an even greater strain on extended families and I guess that is understandable in many ways, though not desirable.

I will not talk about our own situation, that is private and not for discussion here.

However, if you pray for missionaries, pray for their extended families too. Pray for them at this time of the year when many families physically get together when they may not at any other time of the year.

1 comment:

-J said...

This is a great post, and, as you implied, only touches the surface. One could write a book on it (maybe there is one; I don't know).

One thing I found helpful to tell supporters was, "Consider all the issues that touch the members of your congregation. Any one of these can touch missionaries' lives, too. Health crisis, marriage trouble, interpersonal conflict, general discouragement, depression, etc."