Now that the weather is getting a little too cold to sit outdoors at lunchtime, I often go underground with my packed lunch, to a food court where there are plenty of chairs and tables. It’s there that I feel like such the little fish trying to swim upstream, or at least, trying to get somewhere in a river of people. The smells of the fast food outlets and the constant noise and movement can be somewhat overwhelming. However, the warmth and relatively clean environment keeps me coming back.

Today I had an interesting encounter with a young man who sat next to me at one of the counters. I was finished eating my rice and pork and onto my apple, when this youngman turned to me and said, “Man….there are so many girls! I can’t concentrate on what I’m eating!”

Much to my amusement, I told him that I was married and that once you’re married, you stop looking at “girls.” With a rather innocent look on his face, he repeated what I said in a question form, and we had a nice little laugh together. Yet that wasn’t the interesting part.

In between bites of my apple and a little reading, he mentioned the prices of flights to Orlando. The Flight Centre’s store was directly across from us, and the price board was clearly in our view. We talked about the prices, the taxes and other surcharges, and agreed that the stated prices weren’t to be trusted. Again, that wasn’t the interesting part.

The interesting part came when he said he wanted to go to Europe to “learn.” He told me of how his brother explained to him how living on a shoestring for six months, traveling and working, would bring him a good life’s education. He would work odd jobs or menial ones, in return for a wage and some experience, and of course a lifetime’s worth of memories.

After he left, I turned once to watch him leave among the crowds, this young man with dreams swimming in his head, swimming in a sea of suits and corporate-types. I couldn’t help but think of him as a true star among the crowd. His plans, his dreams, his hope to travel to Europe and “learn,” seemed so different from the regular conversations I have daily. Here was a laborer with a destination in mind.

What really got me excited was the resonance of youth and optimism: there was freedom, adventure, and youthfulness in his words. And so I found myself staring at the map of the world (in Flight Centre) with this young man’s words in my head, doing what I often find myself doing: daydreaming. I looked at New Zealand, down there, beautifully shaped and divided. I imagined life in Alaska, that thin archipelago that stretches westward from the North American continent. What would life be like there? How different would life had been if I had been raised there?

It’s the vastness of the world that startles me, even though I’ve travelled across those massive seas. I suppose the adventure is more of a drug or a pacifier for something larger. I’ve often read that this wanderlust is inherent in men, that we tend to have a deep desire to explore, to take risks and face up to challenges. And I know that life has enough challenges as it is, and there’s no need to voluntarily seek out more challenges.

The thing I learned today was that this young man’s fire got him going; now I need to ask God to help me find mine, and to keep at it.

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