So, I’m out of my comfort zone. I am a nanny in Italy where I don’t speak the language, don’t live in my own house or with my own family, and don’t always know what’s going on. And when it comes to skiing, you can forget it. I love the sport and the amazing surroundings that go along with skiing in the Italian Alps—its breathtaking, to say the least. But that doesn’t mean that I’m actually good at it, or comfortable on two thin pieces of plastic as I fly down a mountain of snow. It’s constantly a humbling experience that I have come to terms with. Standard things like how the girls I nanny for can ski better than me but are half my age, that I look ridiculous coming down the slopes while everyone watches and waits for me, and when I tried to get on the ski lift for the first time without showing my ski pass. These things have all become the norm and my pride is usually gone in the first five minutes on the slope. This is all fine. But getting lost in the midst of all that? That’s when the panic sets in and I’m brought to yet another level on the humility scale.
We’re skiing on slopes that span three different valleys. I’m with Paola (the mom) and Maghi (the 5-year-old) while the others are ahead. I decide I need to act my age and try to ski a bit faster, make some of my own decisions and not act like the 5-year-old that I am nannying for. I ski ahead, making progress and decide that I, too, will meet Paola and Maghi at the bottom of the run. What I don’t realize, as I wiz past a lift on my right, is that I have to take that lift to get to another lift to get to another lift to get to our village. I finally realize that something has gone wrong when I see the 90-degree angle hill looming in front of me. And it dawns on me all at once: I am alone, I don’t speak Italian, I’m in valley #3 and need to get to valley #1, the slopes and lifts close in 45 minutes, I left my cell phone in the car, I don’t have my host family’s numbers memorized, and, oh yeah, the ski lift that I have to take can only be reached by me walking back up the slope. As I hike uphill with skiers passing me like I’m someone with a flat tire on the side of the road, my skis over my shoulder and heat building up in my five layers of clothing, I begin to wonder what’s going to happen to me. Really, what am I going to do?
This American nanny makes it to the ski lift where I pounce on the first people I see. “A Champoluc?” I ask. After a few blank stares, they answer me in English (was I that obvious?), telling me that I have to get on this lift, then ski down that slope then get on that lift and then there’s another slope and then …” the gentleman looks at his watch and finishes, “But, I don’t think you have enough time, the slopes are about to close.”
Not enough time is not an option. If I don’t make it back skiing, the time to reach our village by car could be up to two hours long; this knowledge looms in the back of my brain and I begin to go into panic mode. My new English-speaking Italian friends begin to do everything possible to help me after I admit that I have no cell phone and don’t (gulp) know the numbers of my host parents. We talk to the ski lift guy who makes a few calls trying to locate Federico (the dad). Then they call information, “who knows his cell phone number?” they ask me. We try Federico’s parents, his sister and finally his sister-in-law in Milan answers the phone, confused that a strange man saying he has someone named Laura here with him on a ski slope and he needs a cell phone number. We finally reach Federico (my host dad), they explain about the “poor American girl,” and decide on a meeting time and place to transfer the lost goods aka the skiing nanny with no phone (or brain, it seems).
In the meantime, however, I must get off the mountain and soon become best friends with these saviors. Andrea is a handsome older gentleman with a warm smile who assures me that he is a ski instructor when I tell him that I am not so good at the sport. Only a bit older than me, Giacomo constantly grins and continues to tell me that “It doesn’t matter,” as I apologize and say thank you for the 73
time within five minutes. His sister joins us back at Andrea’s flat where I am invited in, given socks to warm my feet and fed tea and biscuits. Conversation is had, explanations are given and introductions are made. And I sit in the midst of it all, completely helpless and in awe of such kindness bestowed upon me by perfect strangers.
There have been times when I have felt embarrassed or useless or just plain stupid. But this experience put me in a place of complete helplessness. Everything was out of my control and I was forced to depend solely on these kind people and their generosity. I couldn’t even express myself normally because I can’t speak their language. I couldn’t charm them with my personality or my expert skiing, I couldn’t tell them it was someone else’s fault or even offer to do something in return. There was nothing I could do but tell them the truth, admit what had gone wrong and accept their help.
As Andrea led me down the slope, I thought to myself how only God could use such an experience to teach and mold someone. It’s not that my pride was overflowing (on skis, I don’t think that’s possible), but I think most of it was that I needed to learn to accept help from other people — people I might not even know – and, ultimately, from Him.
In this life, I fall into the routine of constantly trying to ski by myself, with no cell phone or plan or even people along side helping me. Yet God is there to not only catch me when I fall or to guide me when I’m lost, but He is there simply willing to do it all for me — to make my phone calls, to show me how to ski, and to give me tea and comfort when I need rest.
And so the weekend of skiing in the Italian Alps was an eventful one. We finally met Federico on the highway and all three of my Italian friends made sure I was placed in the right hands. I told my story, apologized again and again, and was welcomed back into my Italian family with laughs, forgiveness and sighs of relief. And hopefully it has taught me not only to carry my cell phone at all times and to always be sure of where I’m skiing, but also that God desires to help me just as much as these kind Italians did. It is simply up to me to give Him control – not just of showing me how to ski or of making a few rescue calls – but to allow Him to take me in, feed me, and guide my way assuring that the end is the exact place I need to be.
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