Brushing teeth with strangers

Field of poppies in the countryside in Czech. Taylor Smith.

At 6:47 a.m. on a Monday morning, spitting a mouthful of foamy, mint-green toothpaste into the sink, it hit me how “typical” the whole situation seemed.

That morning, I had sat on my bed and read my devotional before hopping out from underneath the covers to grab my toothbrush. Walking to the bathroom, my feet passed over slick, cool tiles and I peeked my head into the kitchen to see any clues might help me discover what would be for breakfast.

Just before stepping into the bathroom, I saw her and smiled, “Good morning! Dobre rano!” and she returned my hello with an equally enthusiastic salutation.

I suppose this wasn’t your typical scene at all – me, in the Czech Republic, brushing my teeth in the home of a family I had just met two days before. And while I would expect to feel a little out of place in an almost-stranger’s home, I felt the exact opposite. I was completely at ease, at home even, walking around their house, getting ready for Monday to begin.

**

I desire my time here in Czech to be about showing God’s love to all His children, and in this case, that means showing love and care to a whole bunch of people I’ve never met before. Even more than teaching English, I know that part of the reason I’m here this summer is to simply “love on people,” and let them know they are beautiful and valuable to their Father.

Last weekend, we met up with the youth group from the church in Zabreh, who we’ll be working with to host our second English camp. The group was largely composed of one family – two sets of four siblings who are each other’s cousins.  After teaching English at the local high school’s freshman classes, the youth group, my teammates and I boarded a train and headed off to a town about two hours north, close to the Polish border.

When we arrived, we stepped off the train and sank our sandals into the damp forest floor. We walked for about 15 minutes to reach our destination – a somewhat dilapidated farm-house that a young family was restoring. We ventured up into the loft, dropped off our bags and broke bread together around a picnic table. That night, we sang worship music and prayed together.

Again, this could have been a moment to feel out of place or insecure, but it couldn’t have felt more right! Even though we had only known each other for a few hours, their effort and excitement to speak English with us, talk about planning camp and just laughing and enjoying life brought us close in a short amount of time.

Yes, our group was full of people with different backgrounds, opinions and personalities, but through our shared love for our Father, we were able to open up our lives to each other in a more intimate way than we usually do with our coworkers or fellow classmates.

Throughout our two day retreat in the foothills of the beautiful Jeseniky mountains, we laughed as we crossed rivers (… and fell in them), told stories as we picked sweet, juicy cherries off wild cherry trees and closed our eyes as we lifted our hands when we sang praise to our Father.

But at the start and end of each day, we gathered in a group and brushed our teeth together, standing outside the door of the one bathroom the 18 of us were sharing. Through the hum of swishing toothbrushes, we just looked each other in the eye and nodded. We didn’t need to feel out of place, unwanted or awkward – we were just “doing life together,” and sometimes, we’ll be lucky enough to recognize the feeling of being loved and accepted in the company of strangers, knowing that they love you as a child of God, even when we’re doing the most simplest of life’s activities.

Team Granola with the youth group in Zábřeh.

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