Randy Hasper in CoronadoWe met the Aussies on the beach on Christmas day, waving at them from a distance across the sand, then walking over to them and greeting them warmly. We had actually met and talked to Mona, the Australian mom, in Starbucks only a few minutes before as we met getting coffees, and now here she was again with her son and husband, strolling towards us.

“Are you following us?” I teased.

They weren’t, of course. We had recommended this beach to them. They were vacationing from their home in Australia, and asking questions like,”Where can we best access the beach?” and so we had told them where we were going. They had just come from Hawaii, now they were here in San Diego, then they were going to Washington D. C. and Chile and other places wonderful and distant. Christmas was as they wanted it, away from home,  international, social and interesting, and it was the same for us meeting them here in our home town.

My daughter Laurel and I,  just before spotting them, had been leaning against the big, dark rocks of the jetty in Coronado and talking about finding ways to get out of ourselves, ways to migrate from our obsessions, ways to connect to something bigger than us, ways to place distance between ourselves and our fairly familiar familiarities.

So we talked with the Australians for a while, and then  in parting,  I said, “I’m sure we’ll meet again, when we are in Australia someday and walking down your street.”

Mona laughed and replied, “And we’ll recognize you because you’ll be wearing that same black jacket and Laurel the same blue sweat shirt.”

“Of course we will,” I said.

“I won’t remember you,” said her husband, “because I can never remember people and their names.”

“Then I’ll remind you that you owe me money,” I said, and we laughed.

Only the day before, at church, during the Christmas Eve candle light communion, we had more of this kind of thing. At the service, upon my wife Linda’s request, Isabel came from the row in front of us and stood between Linda and I, and for a moment, just as on the beach with the Aussies, a few of us formed a little, temporary international family. Isabel is seven or eight and on Christmas Eve she was dolled up in a pretty dress with a pony tail in her dark hair, and she stood between us like a granddaughter might and held Linda’s hand and leaned against me.  It was good, very good, because we have history, Isabel, her family, Linda and I, and for a moment, we were without borders.

In front of us in the church were others, new friends from Brazil — Priscilla, Thalita, Lukas and Isabella. We met them at church only a few months before and struck up a friendship. I’ve traveled in Brazil. I love the culture, and since going there I have been hungry to reconnect with warm, beautiful, fine Brazilian hospitality. Through these new friends,  I have done just that, and here, on Christmas Eve, my Brazilian family, was worshiping with me.  At the end of the song-filled, candle-lit, reflective worship, we chatted for a moment at the door and gave each other warm hugs. We are getting to know each other.

Last Saturday, Sebastian, Priscilla’s husband, invited me to attended his daughter Isabella’s birthday party in their home. I went with my daughter Rosalind, and I ate hot dogs prepared Brazilian style — cooked in tomato sauce with spices and onions — and I drank passion juice and ate Brazilian candies.  At the party we sang a happy birthday to Isabella in English, Spanish and in Portuguese.

Isabella, who just turned six, is very shy, but very cute, and so at the party I found myself wanting to win her as a new friend but not succeeding. Then I spotted an art table set up for the kids, and so I took up some colored pens and drew a picture of Isabella and me standing side-by-side holding hands. I gave it to her. She said nothing, but then only a few minutes later I saw that, seated besides her dad, she was adding butterflies and birds and flowers to “our” picture. It was a good start on a new friendship. When I went home, I did so with gifts —  some new friends and a wonderful Panettone, sweet and fluffy and so delicious. Panattone is a sweet bread from Italy, but very popular in Brazil.

My Christmas this year had a pattern running through it.  I liked the motif. I had a Brazilian Christmas. I had a bit of a Mexican Christmas. It was an Aussie Christmas. I want more Christmas’s like that. I’ve been praying for just that.

I have been praying, “God, give me my people. God, give me more people. Please, give me  different people. I want them, I need them, I think that they might need me too. Different kinds of people  are my people. Please send my people to me.”

I think that this is a good thing to pray; I think that this just might be the kind of prayer that gets answered.

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