July 07th, 2018
Saturday, July 7th
On my flight from Houston to Frankfurt I sat next to a young man from Nigeria, flying home to visit his family. His name is Toya. Tall and elegant, Toya stood as I approached almost knocking himself out on the cramped overhead compartment. He extended his hand in greeting, his long fingers becoming a landing pad for mine as he leaned over as if to touch his forehead to my fingers. As the plane prepared for take-off, Toya and I chatted about the weather, his accounting job in Houston and how he grew up in an impoverished area in Nigeria. He explained with great conviction his gratitude for the many opportunities he has experienced in life and how fortunate he feels to be able to live in the U.S. and travel home a couple of times a year to visit. He asked about my trip and I told him about this teaching fellowship. “Oh, a teacher!” He exclaimed. “You will surely then understand my mission. Teachers always understand. We were destined to sit next to each other as I need to talk aloud about my plan.”
With great excitement he announced that he will “educate children in Nigeria who would not otherwise have the opportunity grow and learn.” He has already built a small school and the first class of 5 students will begin their studies in September. “I have hired a teacher and each year we will add one additional class until we have all grades represented,” he explained. “I may not be able to educate all of the children in Nigeria, but I can educate a few. They will go on to do great things for my country.”
I was so inspired by this young man. He said that people cannot wait, hoping that their developing country’s government will make life better for them. “We few who have made it out, must now go back and build our countries ourselves. Otherwise the poverty will never end, the suffering will never subside.”
What more inspiring way to begin my teaching adventure than by the gracious touch of a familiar stranger, a social activist, a man committed to advancing positive change in the world. Toya was a gift...to me and to the people of his country. Happy travels!
July 04th, 2018
In the United States and many parts of the world people greet each other with a simple “hello,” “bonjour,” or “what’s up?” But throughout India another type of greeting is offered:
Many Americans hear this word and think of a bustling yoga studio chock-full of sweating bodies, or sunrise on a picturesque beach, a group of people contorting themselves into pretzel-like positions for the benefit of their health.
With hands pressed palms together at one’s heart and with a slight bow, Indians offer “Namaste`, which translates to:
“My soul honors your soul. I honor the place in you where the entire universe resides. I honor the light, love, truth, beauty and peace within you, because it is also within me. In sharing these things we are united, we are the same, we are one.”
Quite a bit more meaningful than, “Hey, dude, what’s up?”
In my Roman Catholic tradition and many other religious practices, it is customary for people to offer warm wishes, peace and blessings to others. But as I focus on the definition of namaste` and all it has to offer, I am touched by its great compassion, by the unifying properties it transmits. If I’ve learned nothing else this year in the fellowship, it is that, until we recognize and accept the goodness in others, we will never have peace in this world. As I embark tomorrow on my adventure in India I will embrace Namaste`, and truly honor those I meet. I will recognize the light within them and pray that they recognize the same in me.