Wishing You an Un-Great Experience

by Mark Chmiel

Now that you’re headed to _________
And people are wishing that you’ll have a “great” experience
I hope you have a non-“great” experience

If “great” means photo-ops
Looking good with beautiful smiling native children
After distributing our used t-shirts

If “great” means making the speaking circuit back home
To make everyone in the audience feel good
That they’ve got it so good compared to those in a country like ___________

If “great” means people exclaiming about you:
“Aren’t we Americans so capable
Skillful, and generous?”

If “great” means people saying about you
“You saw what needed to be done
And did it with record efficiency”

I hope you have an un-“great” experience
Where you are frequently confused
Questioning your purpose and presence there

When you feel totally useless
When your agenda completely dissolves in the seven short and long minutes
As it goes up against the piercing story you are told by an old woman in the village

When you don’t get what the people are saying
When you find yourself speculating how it will play back home
If you return sooner than you planned

When you reach unprecedented depths of inarticulateness
When you start crying for no reason
When you keep crying for umpteen reasons

I hope you have the best kind of un-“great” trip
Because breakdown precedes breakthrough
Don’t the Jesuits speak highly about getting “ruined”?

But it’s not so easy to do good PR for the administration and alums
With people returning ruined & despondent
Chain-smoking & their faith fractured

But know this: Many have traveled this road less traveled before you
A young sage once told us she learned how
To be OK with not being OK

I know you’ve got an out-going spirit
A tough mind
A tender heart

When you get back
Look me up
I’ll be ready to shut up  and listen

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