“My Once in a Lifetime Life” is a series of occasional blogs written by Joy Zomer, who spent several years in Europe as a Christian missionary. Now a single mom of three children, Joy is the lead teacher in an alternative education program. Members of her “Writing as an Act of Faith” writing group are thrilled by her stories of the people and culture she learned to love in Sicily and Italy. This post is about the “Invedurata,” a century-old event in Sicily, which involves creating a picture on a cobblestone street out of raw vegetables!
I have a saying over my kitchen sink that reads, “I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be.” When washing dishes, I think often about the truth of that statement: how little do I really know about the path of my own life? Even if I plan, can I insure it will actually happen? Thinking on that, I am reminded of an event that I got involved in as a missionary partner with the Waldensian church in Pachino, Sicily. In 2008, I registered the church youth group of Pachino to enter a mural in the 2008 “Invedurata”, an event held on the streets near our church which involved making a drawing out of raw vegetables on century-old cobblestones. Promoting a theme denouncing mafia influence in our city and the lives of our parishioners, it was a once in a lifetime moment.
Early on, I wondered about my decision. I found out that the crux of the contest was to complete the work in the shadows of the evening hours, beginning at 10:00 p.m. with an 8 a.m. deadline. With three children, two old enough to be involved but a few years shy of youth group and a third still in diapers, it was a mind stretch to envision a happy solution. Add to this the challenge of involving members of a second youth group which operated over 40 miles distant from the other and it seemed far-fetched. And finally, I was the only adult planning to attend the evening festivities.
Unexpectedly two Pachinese families, only minimally involved in normal youth group activities, jumped aboard, and on a cool evening around 10:00 pm in May, the scene was set. The street was separated by chalk lines into approximately 8 x 8 meter squares. Interjected with missing and overturned cobblestones, the squares trailed down the steep incline and trickled along curb edges. Everywhere there were people – and wicker baskets of carrots, tomatoes, shades of green lettuces, radishes, potatoes, oranges, lemons. Think of a Mediterranean garden; it was there. Stacked on sidewalks near the 8 x 8 squares, they provided our pick of inspiration. Locating our “square,” we settled in.
In our crew, we had one artist, a teenager named Gianlucca. He had drawn our entry idea denouncing the mafia. His plan was to create three men who looked a lot like Goofy of Disneyland fame with guns in their hands, posing gangster style. Our main point was to highlight their “cartoony” appearance while noting at the bottom of the drawing that they were soon to step on some banana peels and look even more ridiculous. A catchy Sicilian phrase drew attention to the conundrum that exists when a group of people says they want to help and instead causes harm.
We grabbed our baskets and got started. Gianlucca drew out the sketch outline for our entry. His mom and I pulled out our paring knives and began cutting vegetables and fruit. The six youths picked colors and fruit that could fit the sketch. For over 6 hours, we worked on translating the drawing from an idea into a vegetable/fruit diorama on a swatch of cobblestone. At the end, not only was it a beautiful array of brightly colored vegetables and fruit, it was a piece of art. Laughter, teamwork, joking, hard work, and determination brought us to the rising of the sun and a completed entry.
Today, eight years later, I think again of that long night. It was a night of firsts in Pachino: first entry in the Invedurata by a Protestant church youth group, first time for participating by any of our youth, and first all-nighter for my family. It was also a night of lasts: last Pachinese youth group event for the Zomers, last time we saw the Invedurata, and last month we lived in Sicily. The Pachino Youth Group didn’t win the contest, but the event was monumental.
If I think back to my life 10 years ago, the thought of leaving Europe would have seemed ludicrous. At the Invedurata, I was confident that we were building relationships that would grow and nurture the church. I believed I would know each of those youth as adults; today, I only know a few. There was so much to do there, so many ways to be involved, and so many possibilities.
That saying above my kitchen sink says it all. This life is not mine. All life is rich in bends and turns, dead ends and bridges. We have our plans and our hopes; some come to fruition while others fall by the wayside. But, in each situation, we can choose to remain wrapped in His arms, rich in Life; when He walks with us to the next journey, to the next crossroads, our once in a lifetime happens every day.