Beyond Tradition

If you read Emily’s last post, Redefining Productivity, Emily and I had the privilege to be camp counselors at Spectacular, a sports/arts/church camp for high school kids at Graceland University (our alma mater).  This camp is special to us for many reasons (one being it was where we first met in 2005 as campers), so we were grateful this was one of the stops on our road trip.  In so many ways it was perfect for our journey towards Peace Corps.  The theme for one of the days was “Beyond Tradition.”  In our theme class we discussed different traditions in our lives, and were challenged to go beyond the surface to find the underlying meaning and reason for the tradition.  Traditions and rituals are incredibly powerful and pervasive, and we were challenged to seek out meaningful traditions in our lives.

Tradition is something that I am keenly aware of at Spec.  That setting epitomizes many of the most central traditions in my life.  I am fourth generation Graceland University graduate, in large part due to Graceland’s connection with our church, Community of Christ, of which I am a seventh-generation member. Spec is also a church summer camp, another time-honored tradition my family.  This July, in the heat of Lamoni, IA, I could feel that my life has been imbued with life-giving tradition.

Since camp Emily and I have been spending the last couple of weeks in the U.S. with her family.  Coming home to southern Illinois is a wonderful reminder of the joy of sharing in the traditions of others.  Over the last five years of our relationship, Emily has shared many of her own family traditions with me: Jeep rides to the river, swimming in the pond, music, playing basketball with her brothers, cookouts on the deck, Nutcracker collections for Christmas, eating whatever you want for breakfast on the morning of your birthday, corn casserole, summer sweet corn, corn nuggets, and pretty much anything corn (it’s the Midwest, after all).  Our sharing of traditions has enriched both our lives and our relationship, and we look forward to crafting shared traditions in our family.

It is with this richness of tradition that has formed us that we venture into Nicaragua.  Tradition, like culture, is sometimes invisible to us until we step outside of our social context.  What seems normal and habitual to us may seem strange and foreign to another.  I look forward to experiencing the traditions of people from another nation, and having a stronger sense of appreciation for the traditions that have shaped who I am.  At first blush some of the traditions we encounter may be difficult to understand, and even offensive.  However, we will work to go beyond ethnocentrism, and engage these traditions from a place of open-mindedness, respect, and, of course, curiosity.  After all, isn’t that what serving as a Peace Corps volunteer is all about?

In the spirit of sharing traditions, please comment below about a tradition in your life/family that you hold dearly.  Emily and I would love for our blog to be a forum for sharing and discussing life stories, so let’s start that tradition of commenting and sharing now 🙂


6 thoughts on “Beyond Tradition”

  1. Andrew, you know me! I will leave a comment on nearly every blog post you and Emily write! This one was especially awesome because I got to be with you at Spec, and I too have many wonderful memories of Spec and Graceland. It was awesome to share that time with you and Emily! It always makes me so happy to be there, since that’s where Pappa and I met!

    One of my favorite traditions is singing. You might have guessed that! Growing up, my family often sang on road trips, sang at campfires, sang at church and sang in choirs together. Learning new songs was always fun. I’m happy that Pappa loves singing too and we passed it on to you all! Even Bryn now sings campfire songs! Woo hoo!

    Can’t wait to learn some new Spanish songs from you sometime when we skype from Nicaragua. You know I’ll miss you like crazy. I love you so much. God Bless you!


    1. I love the singing tradition of our family, too! We sang “Great is Thy Faithfulness” today at church in Thompsonville, a song that definitely connects me to the singing heritage of our family. I will miss singing CoC hymns while in Nicaragua.

      Thank you so much for singing Emily and I farewell with “May the Longtime Sunshine” today. It was so very sweet and fitting. We will miss you all like crazy, too. Love you bunches!

  2. Wonderful Post,

    One of my favorite traditions that we started in our family when our kids were just wee ones is crabbing for Dungeness Crab in the bays and estuaries of Oregon. I have so many wonderful memories of epic highs and lows (more than just tides) on our trips. The trips encompass much of what we value as a family: working together (“mastering” the arts of baiting, tossing, gaffing, pulling, grabbing, measuring, gull feeding), the thrill of discovery, empirical measurement (to see if the crab are keepers), joyful celebration, dancing, facing challenges (grabbing the crab without getting pinched), and at the end of the day gathering around a communal messy table and consuming mass quantities of crustacean yummyness.

    I just took my summer research team out last Saturday and I’m gonna get my crab on with Bryn, Nicholas and co. this coming Thursday. Tradition, to Leif!


    1. What a great analysis of all of the wonderful elements of the crabbing tradition in our family. I had never really thought of it that way before, but you are totally right. There are great lessons and values that we engage in 🙂 I hope you and the boys have a great time!

  3. A Peace Corps Tradition to share with you. Each Thanksgiving I had in Benin, West Africa – we had a traditional American Thanksgiving Dinner. Somehow, we always found a turkey (no cheating with chicken). This was not an easy feat, but we did it. Somehow, we had all the trimmings. It was always a bit of a game to find the right ingredients. We had to make a lot of substitutions too. But we always ended up with what felt like home. We also had a Peace Corps 4th of July tradition – in which we would try to “out-international” one another by having a different type of food with the most eclectic combination of non-American guests. For example, on 4th of July, we might make a Mexican dinner (another game to get the right ingredients) and invite Beninese and maybe a German to join the celebration. Good times.

    Cheers to you on your journey.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing, Jessica! Those sound like some wonderful memories 🙂 I’m sure we’ll try to do something similar during U.S. holidays. We’ll make sure to post pictures & stories when we do!

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