One of my earliest memories is of a decrepit, dusty blue Toyota pickup truck lazily rolling past our house. It was June 1991, and my family lived in N’Djamena, Chad. I was five.
The bed of this truck was spilling over with African men carrying rifles. In the middle of the truck bed, there was some sort of tower-like thing sticking up. Something tall and alien looking poking its head out above the gaggle of men in the back of the truck.
It was an anti-aircraft gun.
At first, I didn’t understand. I mean, I had seen a gun like that before when I went on a tour of a retired battleship from World War II. But what was this huge gun doing in the back of a truck? And what was it about how it looked that seemed so… wrong?
Then it hit me: The anti-aircraft gun wasn’t pointed at the sky.
The gun was mounted for use at street level.
That anti-aircraft gun, and that truck full of men, were on their way to kill people.
I have never forgotten that.
I spent years of my youth in Africa and Asia, and was evacuated from countries a few times due to civil unrest and armed conflict. From early on, I saw that the world could be a very harsh place.
But I also saw grace, compassion, generosity, tender moments of intimacy. So far, I’ve been to 53 countries and all 7 continents (yes, even Antarctica). Even when they had nothing in the way of material possessions, I’ve seen how people from all walks of life could joyfully connect with each other and compassionately share the experience of being alive here on our pale blue dot.
But you know the most important thing I saw in these travels?
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