So… a nice thing when you are halfway across the world is to read a note from home.
A friend, who had gone to Bangladesh before, wrote notes to a few of us on the team that she knew. One for when we’re having a good day, one for when we’re having a bad day, and one for when we’re missing home. I cherished these notes, but the last one ended up turning into a rather funny story.
Stories… not stones… how could I have read that wrong? Also… it makes a lot more sense.
Anyway, at the end of the note on missing home, it says “bring back some stones”… or at least that’s what I thought it said. I also thought it was weird. Some of the things that crossed my mind were: Is this a metaphor that’s going over my head?; or does my friend have a hobby that I don’t know about?. Maybe I was meant to read it wrong, maybe she was meant to write that ‘r’ and ‘i’ a little too closely together. No matter, it was thought provoking. I was growing in respect for the insights she had, and I figured if it has meaning then I better figure it out, so as not to let her down. Or if it’s literal and she actually just wants some stones, then I better bring some back.
Through the trip I thought: maybe it means that I’m shedding my old stony skin, and bringing back the precious God-formed jewel underneath; or maybe it means that I will be moved so much by this experience that sometimes what I learn will seem like a stony burden. I pondered these throughout ideas throughout the trip and came to the conclusion that while it was a weird metaphor, it could work, at the very least it made me think.
Just before we hopped in the van on our way to the airport, just in case it was just a literal request, I grabbed a couple stones from the alleyway. They are still sitting in my camera bag. I was a bit worried that Bangladesh might be one of those countries where you’re not allowed to remove sand or things like that– like I was gonna be questioned over a couple stones (paranoid I know). I figured no matter what, the worst case scenario I toss them in the trash. I didn’t, my camera bag was not searched, we made it back all the way to Canada… me and those stones.
So… I meet up with my friend once I’m back in London, and we’re chatting, having a better conversation than I think we’ve ever had. Recalling experiences and epic language fails, I imagine she knew exactly what to ask because she has lived it, and she also knows me better than I often give her credit for. And suddenly I ask her… “why did you want a stone?”. she looks at me confused, and I say “in one of your little notes… at the end you said ‘bring back some stones’ -why?”. Suddenly it dawns on her that I read the note wrong, she blames it on her handwriting, and I say “no no- I have trouble reading a lot of people’s handwriting”, she explains it probably says “stories”… and we can’t stop laughing. She wants the stone now, although I’ve yet to get it to her.
When I’m back at my apartment I look at the note again and it does indeed say “stories” not “stones”.
But when I think back on how much thinking that it made me do… I think I was meant to read it the way that I did. And it really is a great metaphor for cross-cultural experiences. Things that seem like common pebbles (things we take for granted) turn out to be precious gems that we give new value because of our awakening, and the things we think are precious gems (things that have surface value) are really common rocks in disguise.