Thoughts from an Ordinary Guy

This journey through life is never boring......

Month: April 2017 (page 1 of 3)

Voices

No, not the voices in my head, I’m not going to tell you about those. 🙂

I’m talking about the difference in the voices between Grand Rapids, Chicago and Miami.

Grand Rapids – all English, pretty much all of the time and with very little accent of any other country or region coming through. Busy but not frantic. Crowded but not overwhelmed.

Chicago – O’Hare – busy beyond belief. Could hardly find a spare two feet to walk in to get from Concourse L to Concourse K. The voices – some laughing, some angry, some happy. Some English, some Spanish, some other languages that sound like they are related to Spanish – French? Portuguese? Some Asian, some middle eastern. All of them with a purpose and all of them a great big melting pot either trying to get somewhere or trying to help people get somewhere.

Miami – because it was late at night and earlier in the morning, the pace of the voices was different. Not as hectic. Much more willing to be accommodating. Much more willing to “have a nice day” to the people they came into contact with.

But that’s not the biggest difference I noticed between the voices at the airports. Miami, of all three, represented the geographically related diversity. There were a lot of different accents and a lot of different languages but most of them were related to Central America, the Caribbean and down into South America.

The voices I heard in my travel so far taught me a couple of very important things. Well, maybe they didn’t teach me, but they reminded me……

Our world is very small. It’s very big but it’s very small. And it’s the small that matters more than the big.

Our world is more alike than it is different. Yeah, we have different customs and different languages and some different beliefs. But when it comes down to it, we are all part of God’s people (whether we believe in God or not) and we all want to be treated with dignity and respect.

Our world would be in much better shape now if more people treated those who are different from them with respect and dignify even if they are different.

Or they look different.

Or they talk differently.

Or they got here (wherever here is) differently.

God says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” I heard and saw a lot of different neighbors on the trip to Haiti.

Tom

An Airport at Night

I landed in Miami at 11:20 Wednesday night. About a half hour behind schedule but given as my next flight isn’t until Thursday morning, it wasn’t a big deal.

Apparently, there was a big storm that we needed to travel around. That was the reason for the delay.

And I’m okay with that delay. As it was, we had enough turbulence that the captain wouldn’t let the flight attendants serve free soft drinks and I couldn’t type to write anything because I was bouncing around too much. I know, we had it rough……

We land in Miami and obviously it’s dark, but other than that, it didn’t look that much different. But you get inside and that’s where you see the difference……

Stores are closed. Others are closing.

“Sorry, no bed time snack for you.”

Chairs are empty, except for here and there. People are trying to settle in. Obviously they are planning on spending the night in the airport terminal.

Other people are trying to get out as quickly as possible. They are going home, going to a family members or going to attempt to get some sleep in a hotel.

Sleeping in the airport – it could be better, it could be worse……

Fortunately I have a bed waiting for me. 7 hours of sleep and then on to the next leg of the journey.

TV

People

I don’t know the statistics, but I just spent an hour and a half in Chicago’s O’Hare Airport and I saw LOTS of people. I mean lots of people. As in, it was overwhelming how many people there were.

Lots of people all busy going somewhere.

Many were obviously business people – dressed up and talking on their phone the whole time.

Many were families – visiting family, going to see family, going home from seeing family.

And there were the tourists. The college age kids – all in line in front of me and talking a different language – I don’t think it was Spanish.

All different colors and styles of clothes. All different colors and sizes of people.

And that got me thinking. Every single one of them, every single one of us is where we are for a reason.

Whether we are traveling to do business.

Or traveling for pleasure.

Or some combination of them.

But then I ask myself, “Self, if God has put us all here for a reason, then why did He put some of His people in places like Haiti and Iraq and Syria?”

Why did we end up in the “first world” with all that being in places like “this” mean? I mean, let’s be honest, virtually all of the people who live in places like Canada, the United States, England……. And the list could go on, virtually all of them are better from a materialistic and from a peace standpoint.

Why are the struggles that we face not nearly as life threatening? Now don’t get me wrong, life is not always, actually hardly ever, a cake walk in the United States – but we have a LOT that many in other parts of the world don’t have.

WHY are we here?

Why are we HERE?

Why are WE here?

Why aren’t we THERE?

And what does that mean for us, especially now, in this age of immediate technology, when we know that over THERE are people who don’t have as much as we do – even to the point of not being able to survive?

What do we do now that we know that?

We’ll be exploring that a lot more this trip…….

And beyond.

TJV

Haze

The plane takes off from the airport. It’s the first leg of three to get to Port Au Prince. Prior to takeoff, the pilot tells us we will be flying at approximately 18,000 feet during the short trip from here to Chicago.

That’s about 3 1/2 miles.

As we go higher, I notice something. Everything is fuzzy.

It’s haze. You can see the ground, but it’s not clear.

You can see the shoreline – but only for a short distance.

If you try to look “over there” you can’t see anything.

As I am on my way to Haiti to tell the stories and help families there, I think haze is a pretty good description of the work that needs to be done.

We can see the need. But it is hard to see it clearly.

We know we can help. But what is best and how?

There is a lot of haze. In the haze, different people see different things.

But the story doesn’t change.

People are struggling.

We can help.

And so we must look through the haze, peer through the haze and see where God tells us to help.

Please pray that He does that for you, for me and for everyone gifted with the ability and means to help.

More to come…….

Tom

“Beyond Mountains, There are Mountains”

I first heard this Haitian proverb when I read Tracy Kidder’s book about Paul Farmer, “Mountains beyond Mountains.” If you haven’t read the book, I urge you to do so as it will give you substantial insights into a man who is making a difference and insights into the country of Haiti.

So what does “beyond mountains, there are mountains” mean? Well it is two things, one is geographical and one is emotional, social/cultural. Step with me to the balcony on a house overlooking Port Au Prince. You look out over the city, over the masses humanity attempting to eke out a living in a hot dry and challenging environment and beyond them, you see mountains.

And if the weather is clear enough and the sky is clear enough, what do you see past the mountains?

More mountains.

Beyond mountains there are mountains. That’s a very simple geographical statement for a large part (but not all) of Haiti,

But the mountains in Haiti are more than geographical. The mountains represent the problems of life. The problems of life that come from living on an island that has been stripped of many of the ways that people can make a living. The problems of life that come from decades and decades of poorly run and corrupt government. The problems that come from an infrastructure of roads, bridges, hospitals, schools that all have not been taken care of the way they should. The problems that come from the lack of a decent health care system.

The list could go on. And the proverb does go on. It doesn’t say beyond Mountains, there is a mountain. It doesn’t say, solve one problem, get past one obstacle and you’ll only have one more problem.

Beyond mountains, there are mountains. Work on one problem, and as soon as you fix that problem, as soon as you conquer that issue, another issue pops up.

Well, it doesn’t really pop up, it’s just that you can finally see it because you made it over the first mountain. What was something off in the haze is now an obstacle that is right in front of you. You have three choices on how to deal with that obstacle:

Attack it directly. Take on the challenge, climb the mountain, reduce it to rubble. And then repeat the process for the next mountain.

Because beyond mountains there are mountains.

Try to find away around it. I don’t know of any mountains in this world that you can’t walk around. Some of them might take months if not years to walk around, but it can be done.

But beyond mountains, there are mountains. If you side step the challenge you are facing, soon you face another one.

Retreat. Go back. Say, I can’t do this.

And on your own, you probably can’t do “this.” No matter what problem that Haiti is facing right now, it’s too big for one person to fix, at least on their own.

But there are many many people trying to climb these mountains. They are trying to solve these problems – maybe for their community – maybe just for themselves. And why are they?

They don’t have a choice. For some reason I don’t believe we will understand this side of Heaven, God didn’t have everyone come into this world in first world comfort.

There are people climbing part of the way up the mountain. It might be their first mountain, it might be their fourth.

God, in his command to “love thy neighbor as thy self” has told us that He wants, no he expects us to make a difference and help those who need.

So even though there are mountains beyond the mountains of problematic challenges in Haiti, God calls us to help.

How are you going to help with the mountain climbing?

Tom

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