Packing for Switzerland

by Rod Smith

When I arrived in Geneva – Switzerland (there are others) yesterday, I stepped of the United flight from Dulles wearing Nate Smith’s school shoes. I wore Thulani Smith’s white Butler University bulldog shirt and my yellow hat.

In my DPHS (readers from Durban will know what DPHS is) carryon bag – a treasured gift from Richard Neave – I had Coates’ “Between The World and Me” which I have already read but still can’t put it down and “The Namesake” by Jhumpa Lahiri.

I also brought my (new) red sunglasses and my (new-to-me) red shoes.

Then, it thrilled me to peer out the porthole as we rolled to the gate to see it was raining quite steadily. This meant I could wear (not slung over my shoulder) one of my favorite gifts – my Swaziland jacket commissioned by Bernadette Fourie.

Some other things in my bag?

A pocket New Testament from the welcome desk at Kevin Driver’s church in Banff, the beautiful fountain pen my brother gave me for my birthday, and a plastic model of the human brain.

In my wallet there are two four-leaf clovers laminated beautifully. These are gifts from my friend Jim Cannull. No – I am not superstitious – but several years ago he found the clovers and went to FedEx and laminated them for ME.

Every piece of all this is intentional.

I could tell you exactly why I put it all together and how I put things together for each trip. I will not go into that detail now – although I will be glad to answer specific questions.

Essentially I do this it is because it is NEVER just another week of speaking.

On Monday morning I have the unique, singular joy and unmerited privilege to stand before a class of young men and women (in their 20s and 30s) from several nations (mostly Chinese) and representing very diverse cultures.

I need all these artifacts and symbols and playful pieces of clothing and equipment, not for them, but to enhance my courage to empower all the students to live great and robust and intentional and international lives of meaning and significance.

I need these things to remind me that I come from a community, an international community of men and women who love me. I come from sons who love me. I come from a brother and a sister and immediate and extended family who love me and would do anything for me. I carry a plastic brain to remind me to use the front parts of the real one in my head. I wear a Swazi jacket to be an outward symbol of the Enchanting Continent of my birth.

I wear my yellow hat because it’s Yellow Hat Month and I am going to wear it when a hat is necessary and as long as I can find it – I lose stuff.

I wear my son’s shoes so I can learn to walk in them.

And, beginning on Monday morning (in Lausanne) I am going to tell every last one of the students whom I will then teach for several hours each day that he or she is stunningly beautiful, uniquely talented, and absolutely loved by a Benevolent God and that not a single one of them should put up with a single minute of disregard or ill manners from any person ever (and I’ll add strongly and graphically that I don’t care who it is).

I’ll also teach them Family Therapy 101.

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