This week Iʼll share with you some of the things I learned while in the UK. Bubble and squeak is a concoction of potatoes and other vegetables (whatever you find in the pantry). Fries are chips. Chips are crisps. There is more to beer than beer: ales, bitters, beers. Pubs are the heart of neighborhood communities. Brits drink a lot. Most people walk no matter the weather. If going to a pub, cabs are preferred – not much of a guess as to the reason. Trains can be clean, run on time and are cheaper than driving a car. If you do drive in the UK you are sitting on the wrong side of the car and driving on the wrong side of the road. The English spoken in London doesnʼt sound like the English spoken in York. Ben is big. So is Harrods. The UK countryside is green and lush. It is grey everywhere. And wet. And cold in April. People buy lots of flowers in the UK (read previous three sentences and fragments to be reminded why this is so).
The real guards at Buckingham Palace carry machine guns. Stonehenge is super cool. Rapeseed fields are a glorious yellow in the spring. The Union Jack is not the flag of the England (it is the banner of the United Kingdom which is a sort of compilation of the cross of St. George, representing England; the cross of St. Andrew, representing Scotland; and the cross of St. Patrick, representing Ireland). People there love something called Marmite which is a yeast by-product of making ale (sludge). It is similar to its Australian cousin, Vegemite, and tastes like radically salty cold gravy. They use it like peanut butter. Ugh. Because of the aforementioned love of pubs and beers it will always be in high supply.
I learned some other things as well. The Brits are dealing with many of the same problems and issues as we in the US are struggling. There are concerns about the divisions between the classes, fair taxation, high petrol costs, immigration, the national budget/economy, a government that seems out of touch, and drought.
But the most wonderful lesson I came home with is that the people in England are probably among the most hospitable in the world. Whether cockney or classy the folks treated us like royalty. From the tattooed, body pierced to the seemingly haughty “Jeeves-type” we found the people to be warm, kind and helpful. There is a lot that is good to be said about hospitality. The importance of receiving people as they are
– without suspicion, judgment or ulterior motive – is frequently lifted up in scripture as Godʼs favorite method of human interaction. Sadly, in many parts of the world today, the practice can be dangerous. Still, I think it is worth the risk.
God took and takes risks with us all the time. God risks our rejection, our mockery, our misuse of the gifts given us as individuals and as a community but still finds enough hospitality to forgive us, continue to care for us and love us – accepting us as we are but hoping we will improve! We started as strangers. We parted as friends. That can happen anywhere with anyone if we risk being hospitable. It is nice to be reminded of this truth. Thanks to the Brits…