At the end of a long day last week, I realized that I was out of fruit. I like apples and bananas when traveling, because they’re healthy snacks that be easily stashed in a coat pocket on the way out the door. If you don’t know exactly when and where your next meal is coming from, it’s good to be prepared. And I was completely out. Also, I was hungry.
So I had started my long walk to the grocery store when I got an email from the International Hub, my contact office at the university here. Did I want to stop by and pick up paperwork for a student, or should they just send it down to be waiting at the security desk?
I’ve learned to take face-to-face meetings whenever possible, partly because the people who work in that office are just profoundly pleasant people, but also because personal meetings have ways of quickly raising and resolving issues that won’t necessarily come up over email. “By the way, did you hear about…. Oh, that reminds me…. Hey, I can do that; you don’t have to.” Some of the best planning and problem-solving I’ve done here has happened almost accidentally on a walk across campus or a drive downtown to do something else.
So I turned my back on the grocery store and headed back to campus to fetch the paperwork.
When I entered the International Hub, I found a couch full of food. “Do you want any apples and bananas?” my colleague asked me. She explained that the university had bought provisions for a couple of other international students who would need to isolate until their Covid tests came back negative, but now those students couldn’t come.
“Pack like a pilgrim,” I’ve told students. “Don’t just pack the bare minimum you’ll need to get by. Pack less than that.” Why would we pray “Give us this day our daily bread” if we already had a cupboard full of bread and could totally take care of ourselves? Leave enough emptiness to be filled by serendipity, grace, and the hospitality of strangers. Because those things happen.