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July 10th, 2011

Alone at the Feast: What Really Matters

Articles, Carolanne Patton, by CGP.

 

Feast Blog 2009

As we look forward to the Feast of Tabernacles let’s remember the lessons of previous festival seasons, and prepare for our best Feast yet.

There I was at Ambassador College in Bricketwood, England, and not feeling my normally confident, cheerful, nerdy self. I wasn’t happy and perhaps I was in denial about the source of my trouble.

There I was living my “dream,” one I had worked for since those days in summer camp 5 years earlier when I fell in love with my SEP counselors’ tales about college, and I learned about England from a campmate who was a bona fide Limey.  But now, I was seventeen, had completed Grade 13 and was in England, the home of my ancestors. The campus had a wonderful rural, small town atmosphere that was just what I was looking for and I was already busily engaged in and enjoying classes and work.

But something was amiss. I had gained 15 lbs in just a few weeks, and I was feeling awkward in my new shape. Working in the kitchen with access to unlimited food, clockwork tea and biscuit breaks, and regular visits to the common room for Horlicks, ginger beer, the ubiquitous nuts and raisins, or gouda cheese could account for the changes. But there was something deeper. I had great roomies, interesting classmates, stimulating professors, but perhaps being quiet or shy outside the classroom setting, had hampered me in making new friends.

Then the feast came and the whole campus moved in a grand bus caravan to the holiday camp at the seaside town of Minehead on England’s west coast. Bus trips and I have never had a good relationship; I can still vividly remember in exquisite detail all the horrors of my two-day trip to SEP camp in Orr, Minnesota, during the height of the Detroit riots. I have since learned I have severe petro-chemical sensitivities that explains why diesel fumes puts me into a tailspin of nausea and vomiting. So I knew I was in trouble as I anticipated a day trip in a coach along winding English roads.

Minehead, was everything a quaint seaside summer retreat should be, but I arrived with major headache and nausea, and all I could think about was to get my very discombobulated body into bed. When I revived somewhat I was put to work, and being new to the kitchen crew, we first year students had the pleasure of cleaning the sinks and counters in this kitchen that looked as if it could accommodate a couple of 747’s.

The smell of rancid fats hit my sensitive sniffer as soon as I stumbled in, still somewhat groggy from the ride. But the work gave some relief and helped me keep my mind off my misery. I spent a lot of time in this kitchen over the next week, as we prepared the food for the college students and all the local brethren, 3400 of us. My job was mostly washing the grapes – boxes and boxes of them daily, which gave me a lot of time for thought. As welcoming as campus was, as exciting as the feast can be, as friendly as the students were, I finally admitted I was homesick and lonely. I didn’t think it would happen to me; I’d spent months away from home before during my highschool summers, but this was different.

I’d always spent the feast with my family and now I was on my own with no family and no close friends I could confide in. I felt very sad and this probably made it even harder to reach out and make the effort I should have been making to meet and greet. Instead, being busy as a kitchen warrior was a refuge- and besides I could rationalize that I was serving the brethren. True? Yes, but I already knew at this young age that I was a good candidate for the Martha syndrome.

Minehead being a vacation village had all sorts of nifty attractions to entertain and amuse but coeds could not go alone and I told myself that I did not have the heart for any of it even if someone did ask. This Feast was not going to number among my most joyous ones.

But there was one highlight that I recall. A young German, second year student, took pity on me and asked me on a date to explore the picuresque town centre and enjoy a real English Cream Tea – scones, strawberry jam, and clotted cream. We had a fairytale time, savouring each morsel of those luscious confections and then wandering through the village looking at thatched roof cottages, and charming half-timbered pubs. His English was superb, but I still tried venturing forth with my highschool German to his amusement. We had a great time, walking, talking, and making those first tentative steps towards friendship. Photography was a hobby of his and to my chagrin he took my picture in my bright green floral polyester knit dress (not what the “cotton queen” would wear these days) but now, I look at that photo and the smile on my face and realize God had sent someone to help turn the tide. Welcomed, accepted, no longer the stranger in a strange land, I could regain my sense of adventure and accept the challenges I was facing. It’s amazing what a day and good fellowship can do to rekindle our heart. 

So let me ask you about this feast. Is there someone you know who is alone, or lonely in the midst of the crowd? Perhaps you know someone that would love a chance to talk if only they weren’t so shy at making that first contact. Would they join your group of friends for activities if only someone would invite them, so they don’t feel like they are imposing. See if you can’t keep your eyes open for people who are keeping God’s Feast without the support of friends or family. You could be the medicine that God would prescribe for their malaise – the antidote for loneliness.

Ask, you might be the answer!

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  • Laura

    Very nice, and so true!!