Monday, April 12, 2010

Chelsea from Louisiana

True, she is not a total stranger, but as far as knowing someone, my roommate’s sister isn’t someone that would count as more than an acquaintance. So she counts.

The younger sister of my roommate, Chelsea was in town for a week, away from where she attends college at Southeastern Louisiana University. Soon to be 21, Chelsea has a remarkably mature spirit about her. Whereas i, myself, can often feel like i’m still 14, Chelsea acts more like a 25 year old than i do; and while my roommate had to go to work at her 8-5, i got to hang out with Chelsea quite a bit.

First impressions of Chelsea are somewhat misleading, and she knows it. She says that she often holds herself back from initial interactions with people because conversation doesn’t come easy with people she doesn’t know. But when she is around people she feels comfortable with, she is sarcastic, bubbly, outgoing. In order for Chelsea to feel comfortable, she has to know that she has something in common with the other person. i told her that i am quite the opposite.

i told her that i’m totally comfortable talking to everybody initially. In my experiences, i find that it’s easy to strike up a conversation about the weather, recent events, or to pay someone a compliment. It’s the latter part of the conversation that trips me up, the part where you run out of steam; when you find out they are really into fly-fishing and you know nothing about it. How do you connect with someone when your specific interests are not specifically the same?

i digress. Chelsea is an extremely good listener. After spending time with her for a few days, and of course, unabashedly wearing my heart on my sleeve (i spill, you don’t even have to dig), i asked “do you have any advice for me?”

She says “No. Usually I am good at giving advice because I am a good listener, but I am not inclined to tell people what to do.”

She paused and smiled, looks at me:

“Go to Ireland. DO IT.”

That’s the advice i’ve been avoiding. That’s the advice that puts bricks in the pit of my stomach. i have a great opportunity to go overseas and work with teenage youth in Bangor, Northern Ireland. Unwittingly, i have been stalling on making this happen. Why? Because of money. If i am to go and do a year in Ireland, i am going to have to raise my own funds and fundraising petrifies me. It makes me uncomfortable to ask for money, as i am sure many people are nodding in agreement, but the opportunity to go would be an incredible adventure and a huge risk in today’s economy.

me: What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken, and did it pay off?

Chelsea: The biggest risk I have taken is to trust God 100% on going into ministry in NYC for the Here’s Life Inner City program. I have a heart for the needy, but I had to surrender to His plan and not my own. We were homeless on the streets of New York for 3 days and nights as part of the project! But the risk paid off because I learned a lot about God’s love for the needy, and about God’s heart for us to be serving the needy. It taught me not to take things for granted, but to appreciate the luxuries we enjoy like coffee or dessert [or a warm bed!]

me: Why is it so important for you to serve?

Chelsea: Because I am trying to be as Christ-like as I can be. We are called to serve people, and it’s about learning to surrender to what that means.

She told me that it is hard for her to understand how there are individuals who claim to be a ‘believer’ but they aren’t serving anyone. She does not know how one can read the Bible and not be challenged to help the needy and the poor. She said that we all serve somebody and that we shouldn’t look for the praises of people, and that there are often no rewards for serving others, besides the service itself.

i enjoyed talking with Chelsea. No, not just because i can talk my head off about my own life and thoughts and problems and triumphs ‘til the cows come home, but because Chelsea is a gorgeous girl with an amazing spirit. She may consider herself shy and reserved, but all i see is a girl who is blossoming. A humble girl with a heart to serve others; which is often, i am sure, a burden to bear as one considers all of the suffering in the world. A girl who is learning to love herself as much as the plights of the needy, a girl with the potential to change a lot of lives for the better.

me: Are you happy?

Chelsea: Uh, yeah I guess. More often recently I have had unhappy days. But I have family, friends, a place to sleep and food. So at the end of the day, I have everything that I need.

me: How do you want to be remembered?

Chelsea: For loving people. Not just the homeless, but all people. For giving even when I have nothing. I want to be remembered for being a mother and a wife, or an artist, you know, for great stuff.

me: Are you headed that way?

Chelsea: I hope. I don’t know. I do my best to love people. I do my best.

It was refreshing to talk to someone who has hope for the future. i can’t say that i am always so optimistic about the future: having not had a steady “real” job in quite a while, after failed relationships and various estrangements, in light of a looming fundraising endeavor, or the fact that i may be hopelessly single for a long time. Talking with Chelsea was a breath of fresh air, a reason to hope, a reminder for hope, and a memo for me to ‘take heart’.