Reflections on Stories

 

 

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I think Dr. Seuss had it wrong. It’s not about the places you go- but the people you meet along the way.

I’ve been told time and again in my dances with adulthood the significance of relationships. In some way or another, it’s all about who you know. It’s about the smile at a stranger that leads to something magnificent, the firm handshake in a conference room, or sitting for that 2 hour coffee in somesuch cafe on somesuch street in Sarajevo, that makes all the difference in life.

Since landing a position with Green Visions and seeing more about culture in Bosnia, I have firmly concluded that life really is about the people you meet. Here more than anywhere, nothing gets done without tapping into the vibrant web of relationships. Stories are contagious, and they somehow fill the void of understanding. Everyone has one, and if you really listen it becomes part of yours.

In my most recent trip with work, I met a man named Collin. He is a 75 year old Scottish man who has been living in London since he was 14 . Never attended high school, traveled the world, joined the army, married his sweetheart, and now cherishes his grandchildren more than anything. His vigor for adventure never ceased to impress me, even as other members of the cohort (all much younger than him) would turn down hikes or jaunts up to castles, Collin was always on.  He heard music he started dancing. He told me he has Vikings Disease, which very well may be entirely made up, but I nonetheless soaked it all up.   Listening to him speak was easy, and I found myself lining up questions in my brain until I got to see him for dinner. When it came time to say goodbye, I just had to give him a hug. Some things you don’t pass up, and hugging your 72 hour-new Scottish grandpa is one of them.  His character was enriching, and set this precedent that made talking to others accessible throughout this entire experience.

I will likely never see Collin again. However, I will never forget him. He has graciously and probably unintentionally instilled some ‘raison d’etre’ and I will be forever thankful. I suppose part of the intrigue on my part is the generational gap between us. His experiences in life are so fundamentally different from mine. It was at times a joking matter, but in all honesty Collin and I are probably more different than the Bosnian tour guide on the trip despite the obvious language perk.

Dr. Seuss, you’re a real charmer, but I can’t help but think you’ve left out a critical question. But, oh, the people you’ll meet.

“You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked.
A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?

And IF you go in, should you turn left or right…
or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?
Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find,
for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.

So…
be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
You’re off the Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!”

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