I was sitting beside my friend Andy, who I really need to stop mentioning on this blog, on a bench overlooking the most beautiful beach in Sierra Leone. It was a gorgeous day, the sun calling the bluff of the morning’s grey with a tour de force which would leave this ginger, doxycycline popping Irishman with badly blistered shoulders (just in time for him to lug luggage around Freetown too). The soothing surf and sparkling white-gold sand were a far cry from Banta’s orange dust. We were the guests of a Middle Eastern businessman who has a small house right on the beach and who would treat us to an as-fresh-as-it-gets seafood dinner. It was fabulous and I don’t even really like seafood! As I sat next to Andy (there I go again), I couldn’t help but think, “I want what this businessman has.” I commented to that guy I keep mentioning that it wasn’t really the “stuff” of wealth which I caught myself craving, it was the location. The comment hung in the air for a second and then the absurdity of it dropped.
I have only had a handful of properly paying jobs and even then have usually been looking at something close to minimum wage and usually for not much more than three months. I’m more likely to be found with my head in a library book with a fast approaching assignment deadline or working for room, board and pocket money, a stipend or…well…nothing. But there I was sitting with a plate of freshly caught lobster on a wonderful west African beach. I have never had a big paying job…and yet…I have been blessed by rich experiences and locations…
I have kayaked through the silent morning mist on Western Washington’s Hood Canal and skied in its Olympic Mountains as well as near Germany’s Black Forest. I’ve snorkeled in the Mediterranean Sea and picked handfuls of fresh cherries off trees in the Pyrenees. I’ve worked on and been on television, had my name “on the list” for film screenings, concerts and press conferences. I’ve met officials at the European Parliament in a crepe-filled Brussels and bluffed at London’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I’ve seen some of the finest art ever created hanging in Paris and London – Van Gogh and Da Vinci, Picasso and Monet, Pollock and Warhol. I’ve seen Nelson Mandela’s cell and Anne Frank’s hideaway, danced on top of Table Mountain and thrown snowballs off the Eiffel Tower. I’ve held a royal python and fed grapes to ring tailed lemurs; been head butted by a sealion and spat at by a gorilla; I’ve walked amidst a colony of penguins and been flown over by a bald headed eagle; I’ve stroked a cheetah, eaten my fair share of monkeys and dived with great white sharks. I have “rubbed shoulders” with princes, presidents (okay, okay so I don’t really have the stories to back up the plurals) and people living with HIV in Guguletu township, South Africa. I’ve had lunch in Westminster Palace and at the Beahai’s house in the poorest district of the world’s poorest country. And so on and so forth, blah blah blah.
Of course other people will have more impressive “lists”, more interesting stories (I know many such people), and such things when rhymed off like that usually sound much more impressive than the stories behind them actually are. But that isn’t the point. The point is I don’t feel like any of these experiences were “earned”, either monetarily or otherwise. They were gratefully received from generous friends, generous strangers, a loving family and, ultimately, a Heavenly father. So the point is, I don’t get to sit and envy a wealthy businessman’s beach house. Not when I’ve got sand between my toes.