Saturday, October 11, 2014

Who can be my friend?

Anyone with beach access would be of interest, of course.

In Kenya, a local fellow and I became friends through weeks of working together.  We talked about work and life and family.  Along the way, he introduced me to his grandson, age 6 or so, and we took him along on some of our travels together. 
My buddy, Ali.  He gets to
go with grandpa Abdul
when he works,

He took me home to meet his large family.  Then, on a day off, we all visited a nearby game preserve.  He brought the whole family, and we had an exhaustively delightful day together.  He's Muslim and I'm Christian; no problem at all being friends, though.  

He explained how, in his community, Muslim and Christian folks get along, share goals and labor, doing their best to make a better world for their children.  They're not particularly divided except for where they go to church.

Egyptian friend and daughter. 
On another long trip, an Egyptian college girl was alone and struggling in the confusion of international travel.  I walked her through this and that, and we spent several hours together on a transoceanic flight.  She's a Rhodes scholar, and like my daughter, a school teacher; we found a lot to talk about, and we prayed together about some of it.  She's grown up now, married and with a precious little girl of her own.  We still correspond.  They're Muslim, too.
Young men on the beach in Djibouti, clowning for
the camera just one more time.
Over decades, career travel has pushed us up close and personal to our inadequately informed thinking.  Grouping folks into this category or that, 'them' instead of 'us'. I'd grown up in a town where there were two kinds of water fountains; white and colored.  White folks sat downstairs in the movie theater, colored people sat in a crowded balcony above where the seats weren't as nice. Fortunately, my mom and dad walked me through that nonsense early in life.  There's more than just black and white, of course.

Along the way, we're forced to ask if our faith is big enough to see others as part of the plan.  Is the "no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female," idea really working in the way we view ourselves and others.  More importantly, can we talk about such things among our friends?

Just a few steps away from the wealthy
tourist area, a Kenyan fellow tends his 
flock of goats.
On the city's edge, my friends live simply, like
 most of  the world.  Outdoor kitchen and a
little vegetable kiosk for selling produce.

Geography holds billions of people in its grip.  We are all born into natural and cultural environments that shape what we become, individually and collectively.

- Harm de Blij, The Power of Place: Geography, Destiny, and Globalization’s Rough Landscape, from Steve McCurry's photo gallery.

A NASA engineer 'tends his sheep'.
A kitchen, indoors.

From our “mother tongue” to our father’s faith ...  where we start our journey has much to do with our future.

Where you are born - what you are born into, the place, the history of the place, how that history mates with your own, stamps who you are, whatever the pundits of globalization have to say.  - Jeanette Winterson

So, how do we choose to understand the world we see, and the people issues it brings?