“Do y’all know how they mow the grass in the English Garden?”
On this particular Monday evening, several of us were hanging out and eating delicious crepes (many thanks to Amanda for her hospitality). Amidst the laughter and impersonations (of each other), one of my friends pulled out her iPod and showed us pictures from her run that afternoon. It turns out that (in addition to big industrial lawnmowers) the Germans use sheep herded by border collies to trim sections of the grassy fields.
The grass has gotten pretty tall, thanks to all of the rain we’ve been having. But even though the rain has kept us inside, it hasn’t kept us from having fun. Game nights are still going strong, and we are branching out into some new ones to keep us from getting bored. I’ve never seen a more competitive game of fishbowl or a quicker round of signs.
The rainy weather led to a quieter, restful weekend in Munich and prompted me to reflect on rest versus busyness and differences between American and German cultures. This past week, I read an article for my intercultural communication class that commented on the American tendency to fill our schedules so that every single minute is occupied. Then we proceed to run around with our heads chopped off wondering how everything will get done (my slightly exaggerated interpretation). It almost seems like there is an underlying competition to see who can be the busiest and still do everything perfectly.
From what I’ve observed about Germans, they seem to look at time and scheduling a little bit differently. For example, work and “play” are completely getrennt (separated). They work diligently in order to take a well-earned break. The concept of a Feierabend (going home after work and not doing anything work-related) is essential and being unreichbar (unreachable) is not unusual. This makes me wonder if Germans have a more complete understanding of the meaning and importance of rest than most Americans.
As I’ve pondered these differences, several questions have arisen: What does rest actually mean? What does it look like? How much is enough? How does it compare to being lazy? Is it a waste of time?
I don’t necessarily know how to fully answer these questions. But being in Munich has allowed me to experience rest in a unique way. When I arrived here, I went from having several different commitments to basically one: learn German. No extracurricular clubs. No leadership roles. No jobs. Just classes. (And making friends, exploring Europe, staying healthy, safe, etc.). At the moment, rest (for me) means not overcommitting myself, not being attached to my phone/Internet, not worrying (unnecessarily) about anything, and instead, taking time to enjoy this experience, my surroundings and the people around me. Whether it’s watching Avengers: Age of Ultron in German with a group of friends, finding a new cafe, or spending a quiet evening in my room, I’m trying to slow down and value each experience for what it is, whether extravagant or simple. I’m learning that maximizing my time doesn’t mean that I fill every single moment with some spectacular or super meaningful activity, but rather that I appreciate each moment as it comes.
I know that my life won’t always be this simple (and navigating Europe isn’t exactly simple, but it’s the pretty much the only thing I have to worry about). But I’m wondering if it has to be as complicated as I try to make it.
“The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord