On May 9-11 our 6th & 7th grade youth went to Minneapolis for a time of learning, service, and fun. This post is an update during their mission trip.
A scenic detour, much road construction, several rest stops, and a great deal of laughter in both cars, brought us into Minneapolis. Our retreat center is located in the Phillips Neighborhood of Minneapolis. This is the same neighborhood where we served when our youth came three years ago – what a happy coincidence. We had just enough time to walk a block or two and find dinner before our opening session with Urban Immersion. When the Mexican restaurant we tried was closed, we looked across the street and saw Hamdi Restaurant serving Somali Halal food. We agreed to try it, after all, what’s a youth trip for if not to have new experiences?
After opening the outer door and stepping into the vestibule, we turned to enter through the door on our right. Stepping into the restaurant, we noticed that all the patrons were male wearing typical middle eastern dress. One of the diners kindly showed us to seats at a table in the adjoining room – and we knew … we knew this place was of a different culture than we were accustomed to, we knew the room we were now in was one set aside for women and children, we knew we had disrespected their culture by entering through the wrong door (unintentional, yet true nonetheless), we knew we were out of our element but wished to stay if we were welcome.
We were struck with the graciousness with which we were treated. Clearly we entered through the wrong door, one for men not women, and we did not have head coverings as the other women had. Yet, we were made to feel welcome. And we tried our best to be gracious in turn – asking if it was okay for us to be there, being as respectful as we could, using the proper door when it was time to leave, being sure to offer words of thanks.
It was so clear to us that we had stepped from the sidewalk of Minneapolis into a culture vastly different from what we knew. And what a blessing it was. The food was delicious, the patrons and staff were gracious – they gave us a small glimpse into a different life. And we felt our common humanity – that shared joy and grace experienced in courtesy and compassion which reminds us that in the ways which are important we are all the same.