Taking stock of our lives

Qadisha Valley, Lebanon

There are places in this world that urge you to pause, and Lebanon’s Qadisha Valley is one. As the day ends over this historic landscape, you look around and sense that the sun has set here for thousands of years, well before you were born, and will continue to set long after you’re gone.

There are events that urge you to pause too, and the brutal death of a friend’s father, in a land far from where he was born, is one. It was almost five weeks ago that in the process of asking a friend if I could use her apartment in Amman I learned that her dad, Tom Little, was one of ten humanitarian health workers killed in Afghanistan on Aug 6. In the days ahead I would spend parts of each evening online, learning more about him and the other men and women killed. There was this short photo essay about the Little family, for example.

Of particular interest to long-term travelers who have a passion for the world and its people is an essay that appeared in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Written by Jonathan Larson, who was a friend of Dan Terry (Dan was a long-time friend of Tom Little and one of the others killed), it is simply titled “Humanitarian leaves legacy in the hills of Afghanistan.” It looks at Dan’s life and motivation, and makes a nod toward his early vagabonding years, when his love for a people and place was forged. Here’s an excerpt:

He counted among his friends the Taliban commanders of his neighborhood, and insisted after 30 years they were not the nemeses caricatured to us. It was the humanity of each one that he kept reaching for, flint-like in his belief that there was something noble in each neighbor, which made him a willing and joyful debtor to the forgotten poor of Badakhshan, Nuristan (“country of light”), and beyond. He was often heard to say, “in the end we’re all knotted into the same carpet.”

The spiritual equation runs something like this: To whom much is given, much is required. Dan understood that he had been lavishly endowed in faith, in friendship, in family, in opportunity, learning and hope. And it’s as though he’d be damned if that great wealth failed to count for something in the larger scheme of, yes, humble things.

Sunsets in Lebanon and the deaths of people in Afghanistan who actively loved their neighbors—there is much that urges us to take stock of our lives, our motivations, our places in this world.

Posted by | Comments Off on Taking stock of our lives  | September 28, 2010
Category: Ethical Travel, Images from the road, Notes from the collective travel mind, Volunteering Abroad, Working Abroad

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