In the past few months we had traveled to the Dominican Republic for our community development projects, then on to Sicily, Malta, Algeria, Morocco, Wales, and England. Now we're home in Vermont, tired, but energized by the amazing hospitality, and the many memories of kindness.
In reflecting on the journey, kindness is the first word that comes to mind. The many people who held us in a caring web, the openness of people, and even the thoughtfulness we did not even see. We cherish the memory of the quiet acts of generosity all along the way. The strangers, who became friends, like our hosts and the students we worked with in Algeria. We were held by a web of kindness and carried aloft by those angels of quiet nobility. Sometimes a young person, without being asked, carried our luggage up the stairs of a train station. In the old markets of Marrakech, Moroccans made sure we were safe and heading in the right direction. Even the police in Algeria always made sure we were safe.
If you believe the newspapers the world is a pretty wretched place, but the headlines only portray what is wrong with the world, and too rarely the positive news. In our journeys we have mostly encountered stories of courage and generosity. I saw a video a few days ago of a man standing on the street blindfolded, arms outstretched, and his sign said, "I trust you, do you trust me? Hugs for free. No money was requested. This is the nobility of kindness that inspires me to a deeper level of humanity.
In the past 60 years I have observed the greatest need for humanity is kindness. Yes, we could say love, but I prefer kindness, and acts of selfless caring for another person without expectation. Perhaps that is love, but in a world of too much discord and selfishness, I prefer to see the world in its true possibility with caring and kindness as the real energy that binds and connects people. This connectivity is not necessarily found in social media, Facebook, how many likes or not we get on a post, or our Twitter account. The real connection on the planet is how we are bound by this network of kindness, compassion, caring, and love which can heal the world. In our journey around the globe we have seen sunsets that have illuminated our imagination, walked up mountains that soared close to the gods, visited ancient ruins that held so much mystery and wonder, and most endearing, we have witnessed that which is best about people, the nobility of kindness.
We were in Algeria as the "Je Suis Charlie" exploded around the globe — with some violent protests, but many gatherings were lovely affirmations of our common humanity. In downtown Algiers during the Friday prayer services hundreds of people were marching through the streets chanting, "Allah Akbar and Je suis Mohammed." We avoided the crowd and headed towards the waterfront, but the police started firing tear gas and we got a good taste of it. We found a small taxi office and asked for a taxi to get us out of there, but there were none to be found. The owner said, "Not to worry, I will take you in my car."
"Don't worry it's free."
We chatted during the car ride to our apartment, and at the end I took out 20 Euros (about $25). He looked surprised, smiled, and refused, "I could not possibly take this. You are a guest in my country and I wanted to make sure you were safe. Bon voyage!"
We were surrounded by a conspiracy of kindness during our journeys allowing ourselves to love, and as importantly, allowing ourselves to be loved. We endeavor to travel with this spirit of grace and gratitude -open in all the ways that life presents — the pain, the loss, and seeing the joy and beauty even in difficult circumstances and living with courage and good cheer.
In Algeria, we were guests of our friend Lamia and her family, but guest does not mean guest in Algeria, it is truly in the context, "You are part of our family!" We didn't realize the extent of this. We could pay for nothing and when we were at the family home we were treated royally. When we left for our rented apartment in the capital, the family had paid for it. All of the family went out of their way to make sure we felt 100 percent welcomed and cared for, and we felt at least 200 percent welcomed. All of Lamia's friends and co-workers made us feel like rock-stars on tour, but better -this was unconditional love, the soul of hospitality. We kept wondering, "Do they have us mistaken for someone else?"
In our ongoing journeys around the world we approach it with a prudent optimism, curiosity, and willingness to learn. We have been blessed throughout our lives by the kindness of strangers who became friends, the small courtesies and civilities, the noble people who have gone out of their way to help us, and we in turn endeavor to extend ourselves in a like manner.
We are blessed by this conspiracy of kindness and this joy of meeting strangers who become friends.
T. Namaya writes from Blue Heron Pond. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.