This past week in Japan was undeniably good, but also undeniably hard.
There were so many rocky moments, from my crippling insecurities about whether or not I’m actually helpful to the kids, the families, and my team; to the depression that choked me – that’s choking me now – that ripped my brain to shreds; to the tiredness of traveling plus jetlag plus a foreign land plus kids for 12 hours a day. It was so good and also so hard.
And one of the reasons it was good is one of the reasons it was hard. I got so attached to those kids! To the little girl who spells her name like it sounds – SP, literally. There were a brother and sister who were so precious – sweet and polite, always willing to sacrifice for someone else, never asking for themselves – and I wanted to bundle them up in love. I adored the family of four siblings, mostly blond, who were helpful and sassy from the oldest to the youngest.
The kids I spent time with in Nikko absolutely stole my heart.
And then I had to say goodbye.
And oh, the hardest kind of goodbye: the one with little to no hope of being resolved anytime soon. The kind that’s permanent, that you know will stain your heart for weeks, months, possibly ever, and will soon fade for them. That’s what made these goodbyes so hard for me. I’ve been those kids, the ones who are 4, 5, 10, who capture the hearts of the adults who traveled to love on them. I’ve been the kid who loved them too, but whose mind is so young, getting so full, so distracted, that within a blink they were gone.
And so I know – this goodbye is permanent. The chances that I’ll return to Japan are slim. The chances of seeing any of them again before they forget me, even slimmer. And those two facts break my heart.
But do I regret coming?
100%, not even a little.
This trip was just … it was a struggle. I’m bad with kids. I’m bad with adults. I’m bad at a lot, and great at very little. And I’m riddled with insecurities, oppressed by depression, sometimes wishing I could just die. I literally walked through Tokyo at one point and cried because I was so depressed I started having suicidal thoughts again. So yeah, this trip was hard. I often say that when I’m having victories, depression and the devil combine and strike ever harder. That was definitely true on this trip.
But this trip was amazing. There was this moment where I felt God’s peace more truly than I have in a long time. There was a real sense of home that I experienced, not just with the place but with the people. I felt like I truly connected with my teammates and the adults I worked with.
And when I’m being honest and logical, I think I can say I connected with the kids as well. We loved each other and yeah, working with kids is hard and I second-guess everything, but I truly believe I did alright.
And then…good-byes. The children’s good-byes were so hard.
And in less than 24 hours, I’m going to have to say good-bye to my team. And that’s going to be equally hard. These are people I traveled with, experienced a new culture with, struggled with and laughed so wholeheartedly with. I experienced the depths of sorrow in front of them, but traveled to the heights of joy as well. That’s a bonding experience — and so was the communal hot spring (nudity required) that we had to shower in.
I love these guys, and I don’t want to say good-bye because I’m scared.
I’m so scared that I won’t see them again, that this friendship will just…fade. Cause I’ve been on teams like this before, where you grow so close, and you swear you’ll stay this way forever. But the truth is sometimes this closeness is meant for only a moment.
And that shatters my heart to smithereens. Cause I don’t want to say good-bye.
But I will.
And I’ll hope and pray that by some miracle it won’t be as permanent as I’m anticipating. That I’ll see my kids again, stay connected with my team, go on more and more Kaleidoscope trips and love the world radically.
That’s the dream.