Au Revoir, Taize

We packed quickly as the crowds pressed in. Hauling the bags back to the Welcome Center, up the dusty paths, through the masses, was even harder than when we arrived. My aunt— who had not only kept pace with me throughout the week but often outshone me in resilience and stamina— finally broke down, disappointed in herself that she needed my help with a bag. Accepting our own limitations is one of our greatest challenges, but this is where Christ meets us most.

Stephan, Anne, Heather, Jean-Patrique

At the Welcome Center, Jean Patrique was checking in new visitors, and our first permanent, Stephan, was back on duty. There were no keys to hand over, no bill to pay; we had given the highest allowable donation upon arrival, somewhere in the area of $30 a night.

“Jean Patrique, tell me again where the counter is to pick up the picnic lunches.” This was a lovely set-up they had for departing guests.

“It closed fifteen minutes ago,” he said. “You weren’t able to get there on time?” Always, a warm smile; always, a reminder of personal responsibility.

“I guess not,” I said, laughing at my pattern of noncompliance with the Taize time clock.

He went to the back of the counter area and there, from a cooler, he unearthed two big beautiful bags and presented them to me with a smile. “You’ll be back again?” he asked.

“We’ll see.”

We said our goodbyes and he returned to the new arrivals, greeting each and every one as Christ. We sat on a bench in the dirt and ate what was arguably the best sack lunch I’d ever had: a big chunk of crusty french bread, wedges of cheese, pate, fruit, cookies, juice, each bite a blessing.

The bus arrived and for the next two hours we wended our way through the Burgundy hills, having conversations that seemed to have been fertilized throughout the week, when we were too busy or exhausted to chat at all. We talked about life and family, about choices and children, about God and death. We arrived in Macon and were delighted to discover that our hotel was across the street from the bus depot. Schlepping the bags one last, long haul we collapsed in our room for hours. Never had a shower felt so good. Never had CNN been so compelling.

A dinner of fresh vegetables and grilled meat and good wine revived us. The next day— which, naturallement, was a holiday— we walked around the near empty streets of Macon, a perfect waterside town with shops and restaurants and schools and monuments— the best of a big and small town put together. If I ever were to live in France, I think I would live there. The night was spent gearing up for reentry: the train trip to Charles de Gaulle, another overnight stay at the airport hotel, and the long flight home. Each hour spent wrangling with the challenges of international travel removed us further from the rich peace we had experienced three times a day in the Church at Taize. But the impact will be felt forever. The lessons, the memories, the wisdom now buried deep in my soul.

Trips end. We return to our families. Life goes on. I won’t be blogging daily for a while. I will rest a bit before beginning my Masters in Theology. You will hear more from me soon.

Until then, May the Lord bless you and keep you, may he make His face to smile on you and be gracious unto you, may he look upon you with favor, and give you now and forever, His peace.

Heather Heather & Anne, Paris

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