Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime. – Mark Twain
I am writing this on another late plane with a missed connection, but all I can really think about is the people I met at breakfast today.
For most of my adult life, I have spent a considerable amount of my time traveling in support of our businesses; consulting, speaking, and selling. Like most business travelers, I return home from trips with complaints of missed flights, dirty cabs, and room service cheeseburgers, but a couple of years ago I made the decision to become a traveler, fully experiencing the people and places when I travel. No more room service meals with Sports Center, no more isolation, no more conceding my desire to find joy.
The restaurant I chose was almost empty; apparently southern Californians are not big on an early breakfast. The waitress, Cheryl, set me in an area of empty tables, telling me, “Honey, don’t worry. This is my section and you will have neighbors soon enough.”
Cheryl was right. Dave and Mike showed up. Dave was on day one of sobriety after three years clean. I listened, as could anyone within ten tables, as Mike, Dave’s sponsor, brought grace and kindness into the very dark hole Dave was in. Encouraging him to start again and to know there is a higher power who walks with him each day. As they began to leave, Mike and Dave stop to ask that Cheryl and I pray for Dave and his journey.
Next came the Hollywood Elite, they introduced themselves to me, two men in their early eighties that shared a love for each other and “six Oscars between them!” They shared with me that after their wives died, they both wanted to die as well, and would have if they had not re-found each other 30 years after working on a picture together. They shared their stories with me of how they truly saved each other and found love, support, and a reason to live.
The Hollywood Elite introduced me to Merlot Bob, who as his name indicated had a passion for merlot for breakfast. After the Hollywood’s left, he confided that his name was not Bob, but somehow it became that every day at breakfast.
“Bob” shared with me that his wife died last year and her two favorite things were waffles and merlot. As a tribute to his “beautiful Michelle,” he ordered that every day for breakfast. It was his way of having breakfast with her. Bob began to cry as he told me how much he missed her, and how much she had looked forward to their life together in retirement only to die after a year, “F*#king cancer,” he said through his tears.
Bob ate every bite of his waffles and not a drop of the wine.
Mark Twain famously said that “travel is fatal to prejudice,” which is one of the reasons I quit being a tourist and work to be a traveler in my own life.
Cheryl was right; I did have people in her section soon enough, but I never expected to meet neighbors who would so impact my day by reminding me that my time with loved ones is short. Old friends are there, just reconnect! And even in the heartbreak of addiction, I got to see God’s face and hear His voice in the form of a 60-year-old construction worker, just living one day at a time.