“Do you smell what I smell?” is my oddball way of saying, “are we on the same page?” I used this phrase with Benjy one of the first days I was watching him and it stuck. The other day it was about to rain and I said, “We should hurry up so we don’t get wet. Ok?” His response, “I smell what you smell.” Another time I said, “We can’t eat too many sweets or we will get thick.” He laughed as I gestured to my stomach pretending it was growing and said, “I smell what you smell.” He’s five and such a funny kid.
Speaking of smells, my first week in Switzerland was some kind of farming season. And everyone was smelling what I was smelling… and it wasn’t pleasant. It smelled, well, it smelled like shit. Literally, cow shit. David and I were walking from the train station, in another even smaller town than we live in, to a friend’s house for small group. The smell was so bad I had to cover my nose the whole way. I remember thinking, I don’t know how long I can take this stench. This lasted on ad off for weeks.
A couple weeks later, my mom had come a week early for our wedding and was helping me clean out our new apartment to move in. Our apartment is in the country side. I like to say, it’s 4 cornfields and an apple orchard past town. We live across the street from a chicken farm and there are cows and goats living along the dirt road behind our house. You smellin’ what I’m smellin”?
We opened the windows of the house to air things out and within seconds the house was even smellier than before and now it was full of flies. I almost cried. I can’t live here. It’s stinky and full of flies.
Switzerland gave me a rather stinky first impression. First impressions can be wrong. I believe in second chances. I believe in a renewed perspective. I believe in grace. I had to give Switzerland a second chance to prove to me it was more than a smelly, fly infested place. Because I stayed I have gotten to see its beauty. Like the snow of the mountain tops and the sunflower fields blooming and I even got to work in a vineyard in the fall.
What in your life gave you a stinky first impression? Maybe it was a person at work. Maybe it was actually your new job. Maybe the church smelled of fake followers. Maybe your new school schedule isn’t what you hoped. You have a choice now. Focus on the stink, or take another breathe and hope for fresh air.
Yesterday, while riding home from the train station I smelt it again, the stink of Switzerland. But instead of cringing like I did before. I smiled. I smiled because I get to call this place home, stink and all.