I’m sitting at a table in the Orlando airport surrounded by palm trees and plastic Disney characters. I just arrived from eastern Tennessee and was in New York City right before that. I’m most in tune with the things below the surface when I’m cutting from one culture to another.
At 28, I’m not old enough to have lost my idealism. I pray I never do. I really believe we can have heaven on earth, even if it’s in small pockets. Since I left Tennessee two hours ago, I have exchanged stories with six different people. A hip 26 year old Somali girl from Brooklyn; Jorge, the enthusiastic Puerto Rican baggage cart manager here at the airport; Suzie, in her 70’s, who volunteers with the Rotary Club; Dan, in a Harley Davidson shirt, who lives on the road designing computer networks for Target; 20 year old Katie from Kentucky who is visiting her professional golfer fiancé; and tattooed Peter who changed his name and writes music.
Peter just texted me, “I’m broke and in college, but I want to do whatever I can to help.” He got my number from the business card I gave him. Dan emailed me, “How can I be involved?” Katie added me on Facebook. Suzie, the Somali girl, asked for the website address.
Everywhere I go, I meet people who would normally never talk to each other. They all want the same thing. They all crave something better for earth than what we have now.
Yes, More than Me is helping little girls get off the streets and into school, but something else is going on behind the scenes. I talked to a young girl this week who was prostituting to pay her school fees, but now has a scholarship and doesn’t have to. These girls and their stories are cutting through all that pins us against each other. We are able to undress our judgments, to put aside our hate because there is something a little more important than the boxes a person checks in a census.
People need water, they need shoes, kids need to go to school, but more importantly we need to smile at each other and take time to listen. As Mother Teresa wrote, “You’d never hate a man whose story you know.” Sitting at a table in the airport, you see millions of stories. All it takes is one person willing to share and another to listen.