Uptown Girls (and a Boy)
I have spent 28 of my 30 years in the Northwest, but until last weekend had never been to Seattle. Ironically, it was my 8-year-old (who has way more of a life than I do) who finally gave me reason to go there. In the name of gymnastics and the “Battle in Seattle;” my mom and I headed North with kids in tow.
My mom spent most of the five-hour drive lecturing us on the importance of blending in. Acting like tourists, she argued, would make us prime candidates for pick pocketing and purse snatching. She even speculated we would endure better treatment by portraying ourselves as locals.
After checking into the hotel, we headed downtown. Our first adventure as “not tourists?” We rode the monorail to the Spaceneedle, took a hideous picture with a giant Starbucks cup, and had to ask a fifteen-year-old how to hail a cab. Okay, so we were off to a rough start.
From the Spaceneedle we headed to I Love Sushi. My daughter, well, loves Sushi so I was hoping the famous restaurant sold t-shirts. Giving away my tourist status, I asked the waiter if they had souvenirs. He laughed. I teased him that we had traveled five hours just to get a t-shirt. I expressed my heart-break over their lack of paraphernalia. An hour (and $100 worth of sushi) later, I was ready to settle for the best sushi I’d ever had. But as we headed out the front door, the waiter came flying out the back. Breathing heavily, he handed me a small paper sack and held his finger to his lips gesturing me to keep quiet. I know what you’re thinking, but inside was actually a small blue tea-cup printed with “I Love Sushi.” Maybe being a tourist wasn’t such a bad thing.
Whatever obscurity we tried to muster, disappeared the following day when we hit the Army Surplus Store. My mom broke her own rule when she found the Swiss Army roll away suitcase she’d always wanted. Far from the hotel and on foot, we spent six hours on the streets of Seattle; the four of us and a piece of luggage. Suddenly we looked less like tourists and more like runaways.
Tea for Five: kids, mom, me, and luggage
The more we toured, the more it became clear we were small-town folk in a big city. At Cherry Street Coffee, they rolled their eyes when I tried to buy a used mug because “I love Cherries . . .” At Fran’s Chocolates they didn’t even give us a free sample; which probably had something to do with the 800 pictures I took in front of the face made of truffles. The cab drivers made no effort to converse with us. They just charged us $2.50 per minute and then took the long way.
Even if my mom and I had held it together, the kids made no attempt to remain obscure. They posed with every statue, approached escalators like a Six Flags roller coaster, and begged for plastic renditions of landmarks. My son threw an actual tantrum over a plastic totem pole with “Seattle” written across the bottom.
I realized something, though. God says that Christians are to be like foreigners on this Earth. I’ve always had a very stark interpretation of this. I thought it only meant that we were to be different than the world around us; that how we look, act, and speak should stand out. I’ve always thought of it as a little embarrassing. Like being a tourist and not getting the free sample.
Watching my kids made me think.
To them, everything in Seattle was new and exciting. They couldn’t wait to experience whatever the day held for them. Watching them I realized that being a foreigner isn’t such a stark thing after all. Sure, we should be different, but different for a reason. There are things everyday in this world that God has planned for us. We should be excited to face the day, not embarrassed. And if we go as foreigners, professing from where we come, who knows what might come flying out the back door. There just might be small treasures in each day. The reasons we are here.