Looking at these boys of mine, You can tell they feel pretty proud of themselves. They are happy, excited, triumphant, and they are smiling. They would be able to promptly explain to you the physical benefits of soda, such as joy and happiness- due to the involvement of taste buds and the signal of delight transmitted to the brain upon its consumption. I admit, soda (as we call it) is not healthy, it has way too much sugar etc., but I really want to teach a concept that will, I believe, “hold water” as to why it can be good for humans. It was such a part of my world/culture that it never seemed odd until we moved to an area where it is not as popular. For example, in Texas, when we had carry-ins at church, it was a MUST. If the food committee observed that the soda supply was low, youth boys were sent post-haste to bring more from town. For Easter, my parents even gave us each a 1 liter bottle of Pepsi for our very own. What a treat!
One of my earliest memories in Canada involved a family tradition that I’m sure even my parents remember well. Between our “deep freeze” and the wall in the dining room was where we kept one case of Mountain Dew. (Still my favorite) Some evenings my dad would open one can and each of us would get a sip. Of course, we each tried to get our fair share, but I believe there were many times when dad didn’t get a fair share of his. On occasion, he tried to open one to share with mom alone but we would always hear it’s familiar “fizz! pop!” and come running. There went his soda and his bonding time with my mom. 🙂
I believe our cultures love for carbonated drinks comes from Mexico, my parents may have been influenced by this as well. They were born and raised in Mexico. Mexico. Famous for real Coca-Cola in a glass bottle. Everywhere you look, there are advertisements for soda, from the plastic chairs at outdoor taco stands to hand painted signs on the front of stores. It’s the drink of choice. You can see even the poorest natives walking down the dusty street with a bottle of Coke in hand. I have been told that its safer than the water in some areas so that makes sense. Almost until now they recycled most of their bottles so it was relatively inexpensive, and they still used real sugar in the original bottles making it very good indeed! And just so you know, Soda goes perfect with Mexican food…. and spaghetti… and pizza…
But the biggest reason I believe soda is good, is not because of its refreshing taste but because of its hidden “gifts” like… hospitality.
Hospitality, the key ingredient to a good “schpitsiern” (visiting) time. Regardless of what time of day it is, the people I know south of the border are always ready to “aupnehm”or “take you up” for a visit. My husbands family are specialists in this department. They invite you in with smiles and cheerful conversation, offer you a seat, and often before long, a tray of soda, “zuut”, (sunflower seeds) and maybe some chocolate appears. Used to, the soda was not chilled, but now it almost always is. And we visit. They ask about the family, work, and so on. They are wonderful hosts. I admire this so much about my people, they have a wonderful gift of putting people at ease, it seems to be a part of the culture especially in Mexico. Makes me wonder, how could it be we lost so much of it so by just crossing the border?
True, hospitality was practiced in Texas where I came from, but the gift seems to carry-on better with some more than others. My mother-in-law still carries that torch well, and, she keeps the refrigerator stocked with cold soda at all times for the whole Peters clan to help themselves to. My husband once told me, “You need to atleast have soda on hand to offer to guests, it’s the least we can do.” I try to honor that request.
But it isn’t just the “Russian Mennonites” that follow the tradition of “comfort food” or drink. We had not lived here among the “Swiss Mennonites” in Kansas very long before we noticed the use of coffee, hot tea, wassail (yum!) and of course, popcorn. I’m not a coffee drinker, but I love popcorn. (and it goes great with soda) In fact, last Christmas I bought a big red old fashioned tabletop popcorn machine for my parents, my mom said the grandchildren just love it. And I’ve learned to love Garden tea, I even planted mint in my garden. See how I was influenced by something good? But even more, I love what all of these items represent.
That’s what it’s all about.
Another thing I’ve learned, coffee shops do more than serve coffee. They encourage relationships. Sadly, I don’t drink coffee but I still love going to “Metro,” a coffe shop here in Hutchinson. (I prefer sweet drinks, so I improvise with lemonade and savor the smell of coffee instead.) I like watching the people interact. Talk. Laugh. Smile.
Three years ago while co-speaking with Gladys Yoder in Manitoba, I was inspired by her topic- “The Table.” She painted a beautiful picture of what gathering around a table does. It was such a simple but profound teaching! Do we realize the powerful tools we have in our grasp with which to bless others? To build family time and relationships?
I love seeing each culture use its unique tools to build up friendships with other people. To show love. In Germany it’s tea and dark chocolate. In North America, for some it’s soda and sunflower seeds, for others it’s coffee and popcorn. And for the Canadians, it’s Tim Hortons. 😊
Of course, now you may think you have to serve me soda when I come over to show you are a “good host.” Not at all. It’s not about what I eat or drink, it’s actually quite simple. I would rather that you just be yourself, use the gifts God has given you, and do your hosting your way. Do it the way you or your culture practices hospitality.
Because in the end, its the blessing of friendship that’s being cultivated, and the food and drink, no matter what that may be, is just a vehicle to help make the ride more pleasant or I should I say, a little sweeter.
“We ought therefore to show hospitality to such people so that we may work together for the truth.”
3 John 1:8 NIV