Monday, October 6, 2008

Nowhere to hide

Team plays a huge role in my life. My teammates are my friends, my co-workers, my family, my doctors when I'm sick, my fellowship group, my dinner companions, my next door neighbors...the list goes on. The experience of living on a team in China, in a city where there are very few other foreigners, is difficult to describe. However, one basic fact is that we become quite familiar with each other's idiosyncrasies and odd habits. There's no laughing or pointing fingers, because let's be honest, we're all a little strange. Yet there are moments when our "strangeness" becomes more glaringly obvious. For me, one of those moments was when the team found out I won a silver ribbon at the fair for the jumper I sewed for 4-H. Yes, I'm a nerd...and proud of it. For Sonny, one of those moments happened last week. Somehow, Wu discovered the story of the Black Shirt. Apparently, for the past three years there has been a Black Shirt living in Sonny's bathroom. If you're a fan of my photos, you may have noticed that Sonny ALWAYS wears solid brightly colored shirts. I have never, let me repeat, never seen him wear black. Consequently, when Sonny moved to China three years ago, he was dismayed to discover he had packed a black shirt. Concerned by the fact that his colored shirts might get upset with a dark neighbor, Sonny placed the shirt in the bathroom instead of the closet. Then one day, he just got angry at the black shirt. After ripping off both sleeves of the shirt, he went back with a pair of scissors to even out the cut (a fact that was not surprising to any of us...Sonny is very precise). After the outburst of anger, the shirt was neatly refolded and put back on the shelf in the bathroom. Each summer the shirt would be packed up and stored in the office, and each fall the shirt would be unpacked and put back in the bathroom. Wu somehow got it into his mind that an "intervention" (Sonny is opposed to this term) was needed. Really, Wu just wanted something to light on fire. So after recounting the tale to the team, he got us all behind his idea to burn the Black Shirt. Finally Sonny agreed, with lingering protests that there might be something in the future he would use it for. At 10:30 at night a few of us banged on the doorman's door to let us out of the building (they lock the door at 10 pm...don't ask what we would do if there was a fire). It took about 10 minutes and 5 knocks before he groggily came out in his long underwear. Finally outside, we stuffed the Black Shirt with paper and let free our pyromaniac spirits. The shirt was quickly, much to our satisfaction, engulfed in flames. The wonderful thing is that these quirks each of us have, including getting angry at black shirts, are accepted and make up part of why we love each other. It's a blessing to be in an environment where your strangeness doesn't need to hide.

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