Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Lonliness Level 2

After choir practice on Monday night there was a small party to celebrate the new members--including David and me. Though this made for an exceptionally late night, we opted to stay for the festivities as we saw the party as an opportunity to get better acquainted with our fellow choir members. There was one woman who was eager to speak English with me, which I was fine with as long as she didn't mind if I answered in my very basic French. Most of the others were much more comfortable communicating in their native tongue.

It was a great language-learning exercise, but it was a horrible relationship-building exercise. When one person in a conversation can only say the most basic of things and can only comprehend slightly more than the most basic of things, the conversation is, well, rather limited to say the least. The experience aroused in me an even greater desire to learn French well, but it also exacerbated my desperation for real relationships--here--and now.

It is never easy to move to a new place and start from scratch in building friendships. The language barrier complicates the problem. For example, each day I see neighbors milling around outside of our apartment building. Their eyes are engaging me, their countenances are friendly and welcoming. I want to stop and visit, but then I remember I can only introduce myself, comment on the weather, and ask for the time before my French skills are exhausted. Hardly enough to establish rapport, much less discover common ground or shared interests. And so I smile and say "Bonjour!" and keep on walking.

But I know that avoiding people will not 1.) help me learn French any faster or 2.) help me make friends. So I went out on a limb today. As I was walking in the park, I saw an older woman with a giant schnauzer. What a perfect scenario to strike up a conversation; for I knew immediately that we had something in common--a shared love of a rare breed of dogs. In my broken French I asked about her dog. I clumsily explained that I had had (verb tense passé composé) a giant schnauzer in the States (Aux Etats Unis) and that I hope (futur poche) to get dog in France. She told me that her dog is very gentle, but has a lot of energy. She told me that her dog likes to swim, but not in the canal. In retrospect,it was a pretty decent conversation. Of course, it took tremendous effort on my part, and she was incredibly patient and kind.

Yet, when we parted ways, I again felt MORE lonely than I had before we met. These little encounters with people are like tiny tastes of something wonderful. The flavor is delicious, but the portion is far from satisfying and I am left feeling even more hungry for friends than I was before any encounter at all.

Persevere, I will. The end result will be worth the effort, I'm sure.

I pray that my deep desire for friends will strengthen my resolve to learn this language well. I pray that desperation will fuel motivation. And I pray that even while still in the process of learning French, I will engage as I can, when I can, where I can.

In the meantime...I am SO VERY THANKFUL for my friends and family back home. Your e-mails, comments, and facebook posts are lifelines. Please do not undervalue these things. They mean so much to me.

In addition, we Williamsons have each other, and as a family we are growing closer day by day. We trust each other more. We depend on each other more. And we actually continue to enjoy each others' company--which is a good thing, since we pretty much hang out together ALL the time!

And of course, there is a friend who never leaves me. He is, indeed, near to the brokenhearted. He is tender and kind, and I am sustained daily by His love. He is, after all, the author of friendship. And I am so glad that He calls me His friend.

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