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Archive for December, 2010

The saints are what they are, not because their sanctity makes them admirable to others, but because the gift of sainthood makes it possible for them to admire everybody else.

– THOMAS MERTON

 

Thanks heavens the holidays are here. For four months I’ve been on the road every week somewhere different in the world.  Yes, I’m pleased to say that I have been gifted with one of the busiest, most successful seasons in my career as a presenter of life/work practices and tales of derring-do.

But the greatest ‘gift’ has been the interactions with wonderful people all over the globe.

Though my ‘adventures’ have been largely confined to hotels, airports and convention centers, it’s been exhilarating traveling the planet, being inspired at every turn by the people I’ve met.

Unlikely Angels are Everywhere

It was not yet light as we headed toward the San Diego airport. I was keynoting at an event at the World Bank in Washington, DC. Mustapha, my young driver, was as thin of frame as the skinny tie that hung between the lapels of his oversized black jacket. He was from Morocco and drove the night shift for a car service while studying computer technology at the local community college. When I discovered he was an observant Moslem, I asked him about his experience practicing Islam in Southern California.

“It pains me how misunderstood my religion is. Like the word jihad,” said Mustapha, earnestly glancing at me in the rear view mirror. “Do you know what jihad really means? It is a battle, but not how people here talk about it. Jihad is a battle against the infidel… but the infidel within us. It is the battle against the unholy, the coarse and ignorant within each of us The Koran teaches us to be generous and kind, especially to those who are strangers.  My dream is that someday I might help the world know true Islam is a religion of peace.”

The next morning I stood before my audience and shared the thoughts of my driver. Afterwards many came to the front of the room to thank me for my words. I caught my flight back to San Diego without incident. Mustapha awaited curbside, skinny tie and all. I told him how I had shared this thoughts, his frustrations with the large influential audience at the World Bank.

“Thank you so much for sharing my message,” said Mustapha, visibly moved. “Allah Akbar.” God is great.


 

Family Reunions Can Happen Every Day – Funny You Don’t Look Jewish

I grabbed a cab at the Tampa airport and sat in the back seat, tired from travel and expecting nothing. Ali and I could not have been more dissimilar. His skin was coal-dark, his name Arabic. The cab was a mess and smelled of old cigarette smoke. Out of courtesy I ventured to ask a question or two. Next thing I knew I was engulfed in a life story worthy of Hollywood. He described the emotions of being in the middle of a battle when as university student in Ethiopia he had fought Russian and Cuban troops in an attempt to overthrow a corrupt government.  Fleeing to Sudan, he was recruited as an undercover agent for the American embassy – which is how he managed to escape to the United States when things fell apart in Khartoum. In St. Louis Missouri he got a masters degree in finance and managed a Bank of America branch before he fell in love with a gal from Tampa and decided to semi-retire, move in with his lady love and drive a cab.

“It was love at first sight. I could not resist her. She was sweet, gorgeous… and Jewish.”

“Jewish?” I asked, surprised

“Oh yeah! My mom and dad were both Jewish.”  Ali pulled a Jewish star on a chain from under his shirt. “They were so happy, I ‘d come to a foriegn land half way around the world and managed fo find a nice Jewish girl.”

“Well, you know, I’m Jewish too.” I said.

“You?” Ali could not resist. “Funny, you don’t look Jewish!”.

Our parting at the hotel caused wide eyes from the bell staff. Fair-skinned, Tommy Bahama-clad hotel guest with the dark-skinned cabdriver in ragged tee shirt and shorts hugging and grinning like they had just discovered they were long lost brothers.

We had.

 

A Final Holiday Hint

It’s easy to get swept up in our own small worlds after all: shopping manically, meeting year-end deadlines. All the while the world waits patiently with gifts the moment we pause and open ourselves to enjoy them. Remember this is the season to be jolly. So be jolly enough to reach out to seeming strangers and discover no one is as strange as they initially appear.

Enjoy an Adventurous Holiday and don’t forget – take no moment, no encounter for granted.

Life’s real presents are ours whenever we chose to be ‘real present’ in life.

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