Thursday, March 30, 2017

Gratitude and Perspective on a trip to Seattle

I have met some of the most inspirational people this week.

The Shooting Victim
On Sunday, I took a Lyft from the airport and was chatting with my driver, Pedro.

A younger man, I noticed that he had 2 "RIP" tattoos on his hand, so I asked him about them.

"When I was in high school, I was playing basketball with some of my friends and one of them had an aneurysm and died.

The other one, well, we were at a night club and my friend walked outside. Two guys jumped him, mugged him, and ended up shooting and killing him."


I let that sink in.  I noticed, unlike almost every other driver, when he got cut off he was exceedingly friendly, understanding, and compassionate to the other drivers, giving them the benefit of the doubt.

I asked about it.

"You know," he said, "I was shot also. 2 bullets at one time. One in my leg and one in my arm.  Once that happens to you, you can't help but thinking about things differently."

Double whoa.

The Two Former Homeless Men
When I landed in Seattle, I was waiting for my bag at the carousel and started chatting with 2 guys.

One of them, from Juneau, Alaska, had been kicked out of his house by his mom at age 14.  He worked at canneries in the summer to make money and lived under a bridge while he was going to school.

For 7 years.

And, yet....he persevered.

He moved to Nevada, got married, and shed an entirely new perspective on what it means to be homeless and how, because you don't have an address, it's near impossible to get a job...on that account alone.

The other guy was arrested a few days after his 18th birthday for selling meth. He was sentenced to 10 years in jail and served 2.

I asked him about the experience.

"It fixed me. I never want to go back.  You fight for everything. It's hell."

Twenty years later (after a period of homelessness for him as well), he is married and works in construction.

"People don't get homeless people," they both said.

And yet, though they felt invisible at times, they both had a Zen-like calm about them and a sense of gratitude that they were there, breathing, and continuing on.

They exuded perspective and appreciation, hardships notwithstanding.

The Asylum Seeker
My driver in Seattle was from Ethiopia.

But not any immigrant story.

This guy, over 25 years ago, was on the Ethiopian national soccer team, during the Communist era.

One night, the team was in Cairo for a match and the Communist party official came down hard on him and a few of his teammates for wearing jeans. "Too western."

That was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back.

Late that night, a few of them meet at the elevator, go down to the basement of the hotel and literally, under cover of darkness, make a run for the US Embassy.

They make it to the gate, ask for, and get political asylum.

They hadn't planned it beforehand or told anyone, but they decided that freedom was worth the risk.

They got it.

Sadly, his family back in Ethiopia was harassed for 2 years by the police and government, but they were supportive of his decision.

What it meant to me...
I know I am guilty of losing perspective at time. I am guilty of getting caught up in the small stuff. I am going to try and remember what they guys went through so I can keep my head where it belongs...on what is really important.

Sometimes the universe just tells you something about life. It's up to us to listen.

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