When I was 20 years old, I was serving as a missionary for my church and living in Siegen, Germany. Siegen is not a tourist Mecca like Munich or Heidelberg. But it has its share of castles and is home to a university.
One gets to know a city when traveling by foot or by bicycle, and my companion and I spent 10-12 hours a day traveling through town looking for people to teach. Honestly, we were ecstatic if anyone wanted to speak with us. About anything.
One morning I woke up to the sound of thunder. It wasn’t long before the rain came pouring down. We had an appointment on the other side of town. I sat at the kitchen table and watched the wind blow the rain into our window wondering if I should ask my parents to send me a few boxes of Cap’N Crunch cereal.
I grabbed my raincoat and hat as we raced out the door leaving my gloves and map back at our apartment. The rain didn’t let up. I peddled as fast as I could, but it didn’t matter. Within minutes I was soaked. I didn’t have a fender over my back tire so cold water flipped up against my back and dripped down my back. My hands were numb. I was miserable.
Given the start to my day, I shouldn’t have been surprised when our appointment never showed up.
As I walked back to my bike I felt like cursing. Had I not been wearing a tag with “Elder Nordquist” alongside the name of my church on the outside of my jacket, I probably would have let loose with a few choice words. Instead, I began walking my bike. I was too upset to ride and still shivering. I didn’t know where I was going, but I was done riding in the rain.
I’m not sure how far we made it before realizing we were lost. The rain decided to move on and the clouds were moving out as we made our way up a hill to see if we could gather our bearings. Not a word was said as the two of us pushed our bikes up the hill to the sounds of shoes squeaking with each step. My shoulders hurt from my water-logged jacket. My light brown leather messenger bag was now dark brown from the rain.
Both of us were winded as we neared the top of the hill. Finally, I placed my bike down on the side of the road and sat on the curb. My skin was wet, but my body was warm from the hike. I looked out over the city searching for a landmark to help guide us home.
And that’s when something clicked. I don’t know why. But at that moment I stopped caring about my predicament and took in my surroundings. I’d just walked up a street made of cobblestone. I could look down on a several castles surrounded by lush gardens dating back hundreds of years. I was living in a foreign country serving others and learning to be an adult. I’d learned enough German to get around town and order my favorite pastry: the pudding pretzel.
I’m often reminded of this experience when I become frustrated at home or at work. Sometimes it helps to slow down and get off the bike.
We never did recognize a landmark from the hill that morning. Sensing we were lost, a kind, German man pulled his motor scooter up next to us and drew a map on the inside cover of a wet Book of Mormon.
As we reached the bottom of the hill the rain returned. Although every patch of clothing I wore was soaked, I just smiled.