I’ve returned from four days in Atlanta three pounds lighter and an inch wiser.
I’m standing on the brink of wisdom. The sights and sounds of the Rotary international Convention sent a wave of awareness over me. I’ve heard stories of four-year-olds torn from the clutches of the sex industry and women crouching over weaving in villages with pride shining from their eyes. I’ve stood in front of water purification systems and seen pictures of starving boys transformed with the fruits of a peanut field. I’ve co-mingled with thirty thousand like-minded persons who profoundly believe that there is no purpose higher than serving humanity. I’ve listened to the fluid ripple of a rainbow of accents on a clattering subway car bound for a morning’s communal review of the fruits of those labors.
I saw so much on my summer sojourn to the south. These faces linger in its aftermath: The grin of an Uber driver from Ethiopia who refused to be paid for an extra stop to deliver a pregnant Sri Lankan and her worried husband; the broad countenance of a cheerful little German woman who shared a chair with her husband of fifty years; my octogenarian companion who stepped unfailingly through every booth in a sea of hundreds to find my walking stick; and everywhere, the indelible stamp of compassion on human features as different as they were alike.
I draw within myself to feel the beauty which lingers. The outpouring of goodness transcended politics, religion, and national boundaries. Thousands gathered to celebrate and perpetuate the global mission to stamp out polio, clean putrid water, soothe distended bellies, and empower those left in the wake of war and starvation. What complaint of mine could survive my week among such noble people, such honest intentions, such selfless ambition? The answer resounds: None, though I arrived exhausted from my trip and threw myself into trial preparation with its awful argument and its narrow focus.
The life I lead holds riches that perhaps only sparkle in comparison to the caked mud on the worn soles of shoes on homeless orphans in countries where the expanse of my closet would astonish people who share smaller spaces with entire families. I realize that life is not a competition; it’s an exhibition. But whatever butterfly effect my life engenders will ripple stronger and spread farther on the wings of joy than those of complaint. I lift my face to the sky. The light streams both ways.
It’s the sixteenth day of the forty-second month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.
Click on the images to scan through and see them full size. Enjoy a taste of RICON2017!