As my time here in Germany is coming to a close, I want to write down a brief reflection on my time here.
Germans are all about community. It is truly unbelievable. It is not uncommon to see people asking strangers for directions. And then the stranger not only gives them directions, but makes sure they get where they need to go. A handicapped person or a mother with a stroller doesn’t have to worry about getting on the bus. People will climb off the bus, pull out the ramp, and wheel them up into the bus. And reverse the process when they want to get off. Such kindness and sense of responsibility to one another.
On the same note, Germans are rule followers, but I think it really just promotes the sense of community. It is about respect- you aren’t loud in the middle of the night when your neighbors are sleeping.
I have gotten to be friends with the woman at the bakery across the street. She knows what I order. She likes me because we buy flowers from the same woman. What a connection. I wonder if that connection would have been made in a place where community wasn’t such an engrained part of daily life.
Germans don’t do anything on Sundays. It is a day to promote the community- to spend in quiet, with friends and family.
Germans say exactly what they are thinking. It takes some getting used to and some tough skin, but it is refreshing. When my teacher told me that my answer was unacceptable, he was not trying to be mean. He meant it was unacceptable in the German language. In the same way that saying “I don’t want no vegetables” is unacceptable in the English language. But I have learned that this directness and honesty, once again, promotes the community. As Albert Einstein said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Brilliant. You must be honest and direct with one another to bring about change, to bring about good.
Germans take a while to make friends, but once they do, they are true friends. Friends they care about, friends they pray about, friends they make a real effort to keep in touch with. I think that this is because they value their community so much. A member of their community must participate and feel the same sense of responsibility to furthering the community. Not just anyone can become part of the community. And once you become a part of the community, you are pulled in and loved. It is part of the reason leaving here is going to be so hard. Because I have been accepted into this community. I am German now. I will always be American, and I am very proud of that heritage. But I am proud to have been accepted into this incredible community of people.
This has been a crazy adventure. I have learned so much about the German language and culture. But I have also learned so much about myself and developed a vision for my life. And I have changed. But not in the way you’d think. My mind set has changed. I am completely comfortable in my own skin. I love who I am. I love who I have become. And I feel that I can be exactly that person. I am happy with who I am and who I am becoming. I feel free to be me, completely. I’m not sure at what point I noticed this change, and I am honestly not sure at what point I realized that I hadn’t been completely comfortable in my own skin before I came here. I guess it doesn’t matter. Somewhere along the way, during my weekend adventures with Kaitie, during my painfully long language classes with Neil, during my Connect Bible study, during my internship, at some point, I became a better me. There is something about this place that makes me feel comfortable and free. And so I am more me.
Because this place allowed me to see what it means to be a community- to be honest, to be open, to be friendly, to be a friend, and most importantly, to be myself- it has endeared itself to me.
I will miss this place dearly. But I leave here knowing that I am not finished here. I will be back.