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 🙂