The sun is here! The sun is here! I open the windows, step out on the tiny balcony and just breathe it in…sun-kissed air. And as the brightness fills the room, I am filled with energy I haven’t felt in a while. I clean, I dust, I vacuum, I reorganize, I do laundry~all before the eleven o’clock hour. By this time, the temperature has “warmed” to about 37* so I head out on my run with renewed vigor and optimism.
The park is filled with all walks of life, out to greet this long lost friend hanging out in the sky. There are so many school children that the running path is filled like crowds waiting to get into a soccer match. Joyful cheers, squeals, laughter, bantering and singing. There are serious runners and those who fancy themselves as runners. There are older people in wheelchairs, being pushed by some just as old, and in a blink, the path is much like one from the Tortoise and the Hare. The normally abandoned benches are filled with young and old, bundled up against the chill, but turning towards the sun with faces that read content, no matter the language. Here in Paris, we are all hungry for the genuine, organic Vitamin D, the solar light that makes all things grow. Our hearts are happy, our faces relaxed.
My daily life has been so non-eventful lately. Certainly, a welcome period, but a bit sad in the sense that a two day sunny streak would make me feel so euphoric. Was I really that hungry for the brightness, the heliacal light that changes the sky from anemic and languid to sanguine and buoyant in a split second? Apparently so.
Although I live a content life, I recognize I have hunger, a longing for something, whether it is for me to achieve or something given. Hunger within is fluid. Filling a small bit seems to satiate much more than I was aware I craved, and yet, it occasionally fuels the fire, making me want to strive harder. Yes, during Lent, I am hungry for the baguettes I gave up. I am hungry for the discipline I know I should have in my prayer life, but fall short of often. I am hungry for making things right, whether it is in my family or in the school or in our country. We all have a hunger deep within, sometimes being fulfilled, sometimes waning. The hunger fluctuates, whether we are aware of it or not. Just how much hunger do we have? How much do we need, want…and ignore?
Saturday we took Liam to Chinatown here in Paris. He did not want to go, stating he already knows all about China because he was born there, he doesn’t like the food and (deep down and unsaid,) he wanted to stay home and play his Xbox. Despite the grumblings, he joined us with a smile, that turned into sheer joy when he saw menu placards written in Chinese and French. The lanterns! The red and gold! The frenzy! He didn’t notice that he looked very similar to some, or that some studied his face and then looked between us and him, wondering how our past brought us together. He did notice that this is what the former “Shan Li Yang” came from and it filled a hunger that we didn’t know was there. Hunger to fit in, hunger to belong. I know I feel that here, that yearning, despite being “among my people.” A hunger to know “this is my tribe” and let the peace set in deeply. Aware of this hunger in him, we vow to help him learn about, to experience and to appreciate his roots.
After our time in Chinatown, we went to an Asian restaurant near our house. It is a small establishment and normally, we are the only ones there. Tonight there were neighbors, celebrating the Lunar New Year, people like us, but none that we’ve met. Liam was wondering aloud if Chinese people use their napkins like the British, and began tabbing at his upper lip, in his English accent. It made me laugh so much, thinking about how far he has come in his speech and confidence and now, with aplomb, so worldly. I grabbed my phone and began to video, laughing along with my boys as they practiced their high-brow table manners and the Queen’s English (in her pitch, too.) A far cry from the first time we took Liam to celebrate this part of his culture and he screamed and threw a fit, trying to get as far away from the revelers as possible. I wanted to share this moment with the big kids, so as soon as we got home, I sent the video to each child individually to ensure the delivery. Well, several days pass with no comment, so I asked our oldest in one of our phone chats, “Oh, how did you like the video I sent of Liam and Daddy at the restaurant?” Patrick laughed and said that my reenactment of a scene from my favorite movie (The Other Guys), where Will Ferrell says “XiéXié” at the Chinese restaurant was good, but all he could see was the menu in my hand. Oh, bother! I had watched this moment of savoir-faire through my camera lens, not even noticing that the red light wasn’t blinking. Perhaps I should hunger for better smart phone skills? The kids will have to hear me tell the story (multiple times, I’m sure) and hope that the episode so bright in my mind comes through as funny as it was. Fitting in. Feeling loved. Showing fortitude.
Paris, like any major city, is filled with homeless and hungry. Immigrants, locals, people down on their luck and some just perpetually. As I walk my normal routes around our arrondissement and those that border, I see several similar faces day in and day out. It is easy to give a few coins or something to eat, but I have noticed that that isn’t really what they hunger for. It is the kind word, the smile, the handshake or wave that fuels that hunger. Yes, a meal and Euros are welcomed, but I have observed and experienced the gratification, even if temporary, that fills with interaction. But is the hunger bilateral? I don’t remember the amount or the menu, but I do remember every small conversation and laugh (and awkwardness with the language barrier!) I have shared with these people. I have hunger for the interaction, the graces, the genuine smiles.
Isaiah 58:6-7 “This, rather is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke, setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke. Sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless, clothing the naked when you see them and not turning your back on your own”. This is Scripture that is read at the beginning of Lent, but I see how this fills a hunger for me, for my family, for the world, every day.
As I bask in the sunlight and feel my heart at peace, I bow to the hunger in my soul, to share His Love, to serve those less fortunate. I walk away toward our flat, happy, hungry and red cheeked~and ready for what the day brings!