By Daniel Bergevin-Smith
I feel as though we as Americans, and maybe even more specifically Minnesotans, are conservative and lack expression. We restrict ourselves, and therefor we don’t like change. As people, we become accustomed to what we know, there is comfort in what we know. Which leads us to a reluctance for change, if what we know is comforting and safe, then why venture to the unknown? Change almost means taking a chance, we don’t know what change will bring, be it good or bad. So, we fear that change will bring something bad and decide that it’s best not to have any change at all.
I know that I am guilty of not liking change because I have restricted myself from allowing change to happen in my life on several occasions. For example, when I was a kid we had an old gray Ford van, which had most definitely seen its day. My parents decided it was time to invest in a new vehicle, a gold Chrysler Town and Country. I cried and screamed as I was lifted out of our old van that I had so many memories with, into this new strange van that I had no relation with at all. Another example, my room still has the same baseball wallpaper from when we put it up in my late years of elementary school. Although it still is the coolest wallpaper in the world, I am not the same person that I was in elementary and middle school. I think this shows that I fear change, and I knew when I signed up for this trip, it would include change; in time, food, people, culture, and ways of life. Having this fear of change meant I wasn’t sure how this trip would work out for me.
The single best advice I received before leaving was, “Don’t have any expectations.” I realized that if I had expectations of what it would be like in South Africa, then I would fear the change that would follow. If I expected the food to taste a certain way, the people to act another way, and the way of life to be this way, then I will fear the change I will have to face with those expectations. No matter how big or small, change will happen in your life. It is that we allow change to happen, and embrace the outcome it creates. Instead of expecting outcomes that will be for the worse, leading us to fear change.
I went to South Africa and camp with no expectations, so that I would loose my fear of change. Not only did I experience change, but also everyone else in the class and at camp. As a Catholic Christian in the states, our weekly mass is a lot of sitting, standing, and kneeling. While we sing there may be an occasional clap that joins the song, but nothing much more expressive than that. At camp, our daily devotion began with singing, lots of signing. People were dancing all over the place, clapping, and signing as loud as they could. At first I stood and watched, occasionally I would try to sing a song that was in Afrikaans, but not much more than that. Quickly I realized I was resisting change, and not long after found myself dancing and signing with everyone else to the point where I was breaking a sweat!
At the begging of camp everyone was split into teams, campers and leaders a like. We had to come up with a team name and cheer, then present it to the entire camp. When it came time for the blue bubbles (my team) to present, about half our team stood in front of camp. We quickly and quietly sang our team cheer and disappeared back into the crowd of campers. In only a few days I saw this quiet and timid team change into one of the loudest teams on camp, which you’d never be able to imagine had you seen them on the first day of camp.
Even in our own United States group I saw change. On the plane most of us were still learning each others names, and the first couple days we stuck to hanging out with people we’d known before. Now, I’m sure people would think we’ve all known each other for years because of the way we interact with each other.
The class and myself have returned as changed people. We went to camp with no expectations, we didn’t restrict ourselves, and allowed change to happen. Like Pastor Cole said in one of his speeches, “We return home with new additions to our old traditions.” We have experienced things that have changed us, some that we can explain and some that we cannot.
I left the states fearing change, and now I return home fearing how I will continue to live as a changed person. So the question now is how do we continue life in the states as changed people? It could be as simple as reintroducing ourselves to our friends and family, and let them know we are not the same person we were before. I think the best thing though, is for us to continue to be the changed people that we are, even if that means dancing and singing at church, when no one else does. We will no longer restrict ourselves and fear change, but rather by being changed people, we can create change in other’s lives, and perhaps soon everyone will be singing loudly and dancing in church.