Be Well Be Happy

This past week on a long work flight, I sat next to a young man from Colombia who is 21 years old and studying civil engineering. During the flight, his story and his family’s story unfolded. I was amazed at his determination and courage. His father is a lawyer - but they are poor. People don’t have money to pay him. We talked about food and how he misses his spicy home food. Typical meal for them:  soup with a lot of ingredients.

The young man was on his way to Sydney, Australia. He went to D.C. for three weeks, stayed with friends, some kind of study there, and then flew with me to Honolulu, with a next day flight to Sydney. In D.C., the family took him shopping to buy clothes for his trip. He had on everything new. He told me he got a haircut in D.C. and was surprised at the cost: $17. In his country, it is $3. We landed in Honolulu (after a 3-hour delay landing in L.A.) at around 6:30 p.m. His flight was the following day at 1 p.m. He was going to stay in the airport. 

His family took a credit line (how they get it, I don’t know) for $7,000 for the one-year course in Sydney. He had enough money for about a week and said he would get a job doing anything: cleaning, restaurant work, whatever, to afford the $220 per week for a room and then money to eat. His English wasn’t great, but we made ourselves understood with some Italian on my part - some words are similar. He was navigating airports, not understanding English, using Google Translate. I was amazed by his courage.

He talked about the lack of opportunity in his country to work and make money. And his plans for the future included working somewhere out there in the world as a civil engineer and then bringing his family. For the snack on the flight, it was a sandwich with cheese and vegetables. He tried several bites, but kept on telling me, this is bad, I don’t like vegetables and was trying to swallow! He then put it in the wrapper and said he was sorry multiple times, but he couldn’t eat it. That he knows there are people in the world who have no food, but he could not eat it.

He told me that his mom and grandma would like me and that I reminded him of them.  He said they cried and cried when he left and when they Facetime they all cry. He knows that he has to be the one to forge ahead, go to school for the future, work now and send money home. I admired his determination; I was sad for his predicament. 

Returning home on the long flight, I observed couples and families of four and five, coming back from holiday. They had many bags, many snacks, etc. - the privilege of being able to take a vacation is something that young man maybe never have thought about. I know everything is relative. We are born where we are born, into a family wherever in the world and it is up to us to make sense of it all and make life meaningful somehow. 

I came home and counted my blessings—one by one. 

May you be happy.  May you be free.  May you let go of things that do not serve you.  May you have inner peace. 

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