One evening while in England, I found myself reflecting on all the places in the world that I have had the opportunity to visit. Jamaica, Haiti, Russia, Cuba, Republic of Georgia, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico and England are all places that have given me a different perspective on life, the world and humanity. As I reflected, what began to emerge was a set of commonalities about my experiences in all the places I have visited. I want to share with you what I have experienced to be those commonalities. And I wonder if you, too, have had a similar experience in your travels whether to faraway places or close to home places.
- The human race is a generous and hospitable species. Every country I have traveled to, and here in my own country, I find people to be genuinely generous and welcoming. My best example of this observation is from my experience in Russia when I traveled there to adopt Nora. My interpreter was a woman named Irina. While her only official role was to interpret for me during my court appearance, she did so much more. When I was feeling scared or lonely, she made me feel safe and she comforted me. When I didn’t know what to do with a 16-month-old whom I had just met, she guided me through my first interactions with Nora. When I panicked about flying alone with Nora from Vladivostok to Moscow (an 8 and a half hour flight) she offered to fly with me at her own expense. Her generosity and hospitality changed my life. And Irina is only one example.
- The physical world, no matter where you go, is beautiful. From the 2nd century caves in the Republic of Georgia to the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and every place in between, God’s creation is amazingly exquisite and profoundly inspiring. The natural world is but one affirmation of a God who loves diversity and beauty.
- Food is a defining element that highlights the distinctiveness of a culture. Whether it is beans and rice, fish and chips, cheese bread and wine every country has its unique flavors that capture the essence and soul of the landscape and the people. If you want to really experience the culture of a country, ask someone where the locals eat.
- At some point along the journey, where you are starts to feel a bit like home. This phenomenon happens to me on almost every journey I take. At some point in my travels, I will have a moment of deep connection to the place in which I am visiting and there will be a feeling of “at homeness.” Most of the time it is a fleeting feeling, but I am aware each time it happens. I like to believe that this feeling is a reminder that no matter the place where we may find ourselves standing, we are all connected – one human family connected throughout the world. And that we all belong to each other.