When you meet people, things usually stay simple and surface level. "Hi. What is your name? What do you do? Okay, cool, nice to meet you." On my end, however, strangers get to know me very quickly.
Sometimes when I introduce myself, I lie.
You see, I am split between being an introvert and extrovert but almost always the introvert in me wins. So, when I introduce myself, I have nothing to say because I'm avoiding further small talk, which we introverts despise. The question "what do you do?" is loaded for me. And it is scary. When I tell people that I travel the world serving in missions and humanitarian aid, I can't get away without the exhausted list of questions that always follow. And I can't run from the crazy looks vibing my direction. So, usually I introduce myself in a mild, bland fashion to avoid the small talk and impromptu interview. It's pretty much lying about who I am. UNLESS I am talking to a handsome guy, then I can pretty much dominate the first impression.
Who am I kidding? The introvert in me avoids guys. My life, sigh.
The other day, though, I could not escape this conversation. I went to the travel clinic to order my prescriptions for Uganda. In this case, I have to tell the specialist exactly where I am going, for how long, and why. No escape. The introvert in me began to shrink inside.
This particular day I wasn't feeling well, and my mood was off due to a rough week. As we sit down for our consultation I cannot even mentally prepare myself. The lady was so sweet, but the questions took off.
Her: "Where are you going?"
Her: "Oh my goodness, that is quite the trip. How long are you going for?"
Me: "A year."
Her: "WHAT! Bless your heart. What are you doing there?"
Me dying: *Chokes up* "Uh, stuff. Orphan stuff." *Shrinking inside*
Her: "Are you going with a group?"
Dying more: "Well no, I'm going by myself."
Her: "By yourself ... "
Me: "I mean, I uh, I have a team, but I'm being sent to launch an orphans program."
There it is. She wins, she gets it out of me, and I prepare for the avalanche of questions of which I respond to quite briefly.
Despite my best effort to avoid all small talk and further conversation, this lady would not give up. I answered in my introvert-like fashion yet she could see past my mood and into my soul; she knew there was more. "Well, I would love to hear the whole story," she hoped as her eyes dropped to the file in her hands. I cracked a smile, because I already had the story written up and promised to send it to her.
We finished the consultation, I took home my vaccines and prescriptions, but I knew this encounter was something I've seen before. What I do not only pushes me outside of my comfort zone for invasive conversations but beautifully, it invites strangers into my life. People don't just let me walk away once they hear about the work I do, and by the end of the conversation, they've won me over. The shyness dies and we are friends. The clinician and I have already been emailing back and forth -- I think she is secretly an angel. Nurse by day, angel by night. For sure.
Over the years as I've traveled, I've had these encounters all over the world. To this day people from across the ocean email me. Students, volunteers, officials, and entrepenuers occasionally re-connect and send their love my way. At first, I don't get it. It can be kind of weird. But these people have taught me so much. They open my eyes to the fact that not everyone has closed their doors to the world. They teach me about true love and encouragement. Most of all, they just give me hope and assurance that it is good people who make the world. It may not be the good people making the news, but they make the world.
This story isn't just about me. What about you? Do you have passions? What are you excited about? What fuels you to do good things? Share these with people. Even if you struggle with introductions, like me, you will be surprised how sharing passions can quickly bring you into life with the friendliest of strangers.
Until next time (and hopefully from Uganda), Cara
Like Cara said, she'll be traveling to Gulu, Uganda, to help launch a program that her home church in Lexington, Kentucky is beginning, Childero. To see her whole and official story, click here. It'll take you to her personal blog, where she shares stories like these from all over the world.