We walked into his store shopping for some Native American jewelry. He was friendly, engaging and spoke with a hint of an accent. I asked him if he was from around here, and he said, “no, it is a long story”. He shook his head as if he were saying no, over and over again. He kept on uttering something along the lines of: you wouldn’t be interested, my story is too long, it might bore you, etc. He was helpful and kind and I felt that there was more to this man. After we purchased a pair of earrings, and on our way out, he asked me if I spoke Arabic. And that’s when he told me that he was Palestinian born in North Carolina, and a few other facts about his colorful journey to the present, a ski resort town in Colorado. Once he told me an abbreviated version of his stops along life, the light in his eyes died down again and he went back to doing what he was doing before we arrived at his shop. I walked away fully aware of the fact that I will not forget that man for a long time. I was imagining his life, his story, and trying to figure out how a Palestinian man ends up selling Native American Jewelry in a ski resort in Colorado.
Later on that night, strolling along the booths in an art festival in the same town, I was drawn to a specific booth. The paintings were beautiful and full of life and vibrant colors. One was more intoxicating than the other. I had to share my thoughts with the artist, an olive-skinned, disheveled and very artistic looking man. He was glad that I liked his paintings and asked me where I was from. He was an Israeli travelling the US on the art show circuits. He was incredibly excited and passionate about his art and enjoyed describing to me the process he goes through in his creative moments. His paintings were abstract and represented different aerial views of towns in Israel. He was proud of where he was from and at the end of our conversation he explained how the streets are so alive in Israel and this tiny town in the mountains is too quiet for his taste. I smiled and moved along. I will not forget him or his art.
I have already forgotten most of the people I met on our vacation, but those two men with such colorful stories and from such distant places will retain my attention for a while. The greatest contrast between the two for me was that the jewelry store guy felt like he didn’t belong here, but had to stay and make it work. He had nowhere to go back to and yet, he didn’t feel like he was home. The artist felt like he was a stranger too, but he had a home and was looking forward to going back to it. He had a place he belonged to.
I believe that we are all travelers in life, but some of us have the choice of being from somewhere we can go back to, knowing that it will be there pretty much the way we left it. Some of us can never go back or if we do, we go back to something that is not at all how we left it. The people, the buildings, the energy is all different. Those of us who cannot go back, find ourselves on wobbly ground. We can’t count on the past, it has been destroyed. We are unhappy with the instability we are facing today and we are completely uncertain of the future. This is true for anyone who is going through a major life transition. So, what’s one to do?
These are the opportunities that force us to go inside and look within for comfort, strength, hope, and courage. When everything on the outside collapses, as it does from time to time, it is important to be able to access our inner-self for whatever it is we need. However, most of us are completely unprepared to do this. Our lives have consisted of being educated, learning skills, working jobs, having families, and buying and consuming stuff. Most of us have not cultivated our inner-self except for perhaps going to our place of worship once a week or on weddings or funerals. And even that, is done not with a conscious choice to tap inside and listen to our inner voice, but rather to fulfill some obligation or duty at best. Transitions or change are the perfect opportunities for developing and strengthening our inner-self. So, the next time your outer world starts to collapse, remind yourself that this is a gift, a gift from you to you, a gift of unimaginable strength and trust to live a more meaningful and satisfying life. And then, make sure you have the support to strengthen your inner-self so you can move into this wondrous place. Finally, please remember that you can’t go back to how it was, because it has changed. Perhaps, now it is time for you to change.