I am, in many respects, a “stuff” person.
My nature is to collect and keep pretty much everything. I fight against it, but trying to do so in a way that is not legalistic and that does not dishonor everything about the way I’m wired. By God’s grace I have learned to enjoy purging stuff at times and I am growing in my ability to hold far more loosely to the things I do keep than I once did.
So, have I ever shown you my tin cup?
In 1987 I traveled to Zhengzhou, a small city in the Hunan Province of the People’s Republic of China, to teach English to English teachers in a 6-week summer study program. The summer was transformational in many ways.
Every day when I climbed the many flights of dusty stairs to my classroom, I was greeted by whichever of the students arrived early and this tin cup filled with boiled (so it was clean) and still hot water. There was a thermos in the classroom which a student had filled and would refill if necessary at our break time. This was our source of drinking water.
I learned to drink hot water that summer.
One morning as class started my students realized what I’d found out just hours earlier — i had a sore throat and was having trouble talking loudly or for long stretches. I didn’t know if it was the beginning of a cold, some new allergy, or a reaction to the constant coal dust and other contaminants in the air which were being exaggerated by a stretch of dry weather.
At break time a student took my cup to refill it for me (I never asked) and returned it with a bigger than usual grin. Other gathered about and looked on as if there was something to be seen. Of course I asked them what was going on and their response was to indicate my tin cup. I opened the lid and found something floating in my hot water.
Chinese herbal remedy.
I will likely never know what they floated in my cup for a few days in a row, but I can tell you that it worked. Really well.
At the end of the summer, my students presented me with my tin cup as a gift. They had noticed that I’d grown attached. It is one of my favorite things from that summer in China.