In my travels around the world, I have discovered that people everywhere are basically the same. They yearn for the same things: love, truth, a sense of belonging, purpose and, of course, the basic necessities of life – food, water and shelter. This is certainly not a new observation. People who have traveled more than me will attest to this.
And despite all the suffering across our planet today and the way some have responded to the global COVID-19 pandemic, many people I have met strengthen my faith in humanity.
On a sunny Sunday afternoon along the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul, Turkey, I walked for hours and watched the families enjoy the day. The children were running across the grass throwing Frisbees. People gathered around picnics. Some people fished and old bearded men smoked weird pipes while fiercely playing cards. Not understanding a word spoken, but seeing these people enjoying a carefree day outside, was one of the most beautiful days I have ever had.
In Colombia, a Latin American country, a woman who grew oranges and pineapples for commercial purposes told me how her husband was killed because he had become too outspoken about the rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. – People’s Army (FARC). Despite the fact that she was still distressed and having difficulty marketing her crops, I felt like if I had been hungry or needed something, she would have shared everything she had. .
Further south in Argentina, the photographer who accompanied me in a writing job gave a few pesos to a few children if they allowed him to take their photo. After the shoot was over and we left, we looked back to see them rushing to a store – probably to buy some candy before their parents knew they had the money. This is exactly what we would have done as children.
One morning while strolling through a small town near Gloucester, England, an elderly woman was swiftly sweeping the aisle in front of the store and said, “Looks like we’ll have a little bit of frost tonight, huh?” I think she mistook me for a local, or at least a Brit who might have some inclination for the weather. I replied, “I don’t know, but it already hurts this morning.” What struck me was how vigorous she seemed for her apparent age and how friendly she was with a stranger.
In Naples, Italy, we randomly stopped a person on the street to find out how to get to Pompeii. In about two minutes we had four Italians exuberantly offering directions and other information, speaking English better than we expected. The same kind of thing happened in Rome.
In southern Louisiana, the owner of a popular restaurant is nicknamed “Mom”. She greeted us with a big hug when we walked in and made us sit down. Much like our own mothers, she was known to tell diners to “clean your plate”. We received more than wonderful gumbo at this restaurant. She made us feel like we were family.
A similar thing happened at an outdoor restaurant in Frankfurt, Germany, when a matron waitress came to my table and said to me in a strict tone: “You are done! “
Young man, I hitchhiked across Canada. I was almost broke and trying to find a job to earn enough money to go back to Alaska. In a small town, I stopped by a small grocery store and explained my situation to the guy behind the counter. Without saying a word, he began to fill a bag with sandwiches and an orange.
And as we know, Alaskans regularly go the extra mile to help each other – from pulling motorists out of ditches in winter to volunteering at the food bank or Bean’s Café; donate to Good Will and the Salvation Army; and lend a hand to a multitude of agencies and organizations.
When a runner at red lights boned my wife’s car last winter and then quickly fled on foot, a witness chased him down and brought him back to deal with the police.
It goes without saying that the troubled world would be much less troubled if we looked for commonalities with each other rather than differences. Admittedly, this is much easier said than done in countries with a long history of wars, searing blood feuds, injustices, oppression, the ambivalence of corrupt governments and the proliferation of arms from outside. dealers and others who profit from human conflict.
Even in the United States, with its ever-deepening divisions, I am optimistic enough to believe that some degree of unity and common ground can and will be found in the future.
I have to think that most Afghans want what other human beings want. They want to go to work, send their children to school, enjoy peace and basic human rights. I have to believe that there are more people in the world who want this kind of existence than the scourge left by the deranged radicals and warmongers who perpetuate endless violence and destruction.
Young people offer hope: nowadays many young people talk about educational inequalities, lack of economic opportunities, racism, human rights, environmental protection and struggle against climate change. They give me hope. Doctors, nurses and others on the front lines in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic give me hope. The people who tirelessly run our utilities and barge our mail and food to Alaska from the west coast and teach our children in schools give me hope. The optimism of my friends and family gives me hope.
The heroes who mobilized during and after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 certainly give us all hope.
Nowadays, while medical science and vaccinations are essential in helping us end the devastating COVID-19 pandemic, we also need an inoculation of hope. It is not that hard to find if we are looking for it.
In Anchorage, a symbol of hope is displayed in a colorful 40-foot-wide mural on the side of the Halfling Building at the corner of Seventh Avenue and E Street. Hundreds of citizens, young and old, have contributed to the Hope Wall Mural Project, which was funded this summer / fall by the Anchorage Downtown Partnership.
I remember a quote from the letter that wrongly convicted character Andy Dufresne sent to his cellblock friend “Red” after he (Dufresne) escaped prison in the 1994 film, “The Shawshank. Redemption “:” Remember, Red, hope is a good thing – maybe the best thing – and no good thing ever dies.
A longtime Alaskan, Frank E. Baker is a freelance writer who lives in Eagle River.
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