When you grow up in an environment the sights and sounds become second nature to you. Unfortunately, the wonders that surround you also become second nature. I am fortunate to have recently had an experience that allowed me to see the wonder, blessings and opportunities that exist all around us in an entirely new way. I was able to see America though the eyes of a first time visitor to our great country. The encounter was truly profound; allow me to explain.
Returning from a quick turnaround Atlanta to Phoenix business trip, my red eye flight lands in Atlanta at 6:05am. While on my way to baggage claim I spot a fellow traveler searching for guidance and directions into Atlanta. Being a native Atlantan I offer assistance. My fellow traveler explains to me that he is a fisherman from a small town outside of Bordeaux, France and this is his first time in America. Manu, short for Manuel, explained that this was only a 10 hour layover in the states on his way to fish in Colombia, South America. He was wanting to see the city and also find some fishing supplies. Directing him to Marta, Atlanta’s light rail public transportation system, then onto cab’s and buses etc. It all seemed so cumbersome and inhospitable for me to just send him on his way leaving him to figure out our systems, directions and even a language barrier. So, I offered to take him myself and I’m glad that I did!
As we walked to my car Manu asked a significant question…. Is it common for American people to go out of their way or to be so kind as to help a stranger? Hmmmmm… Think on that for a minute! I will tell you my response in a moment.
Since Manu was looking for fishing supplies I told him that I would take him to Bass Pro Shops, he was ecstatic since he had only heard of this place on-line. As we traveled through Atlanta he was amazed at the the newness of our automobiles, the 16 lanes that make up our downtown connector, the amount of tall buildings and on and on. His eyes were wide open, expressing even a childlike wonder, but not because he hasn’t experienced the world. Manu shared with me the numerous countries that he had visited around the world, but in his words, “none of the places that I have visited have the sites that I am seeing”.
Manu continued to express gratitude for the ride, but also for the extra details in explaining some of the history of the United States and Atlanta. I was happy to serve him, however I believe that I was the one who gained the most from the brief time that we spent together. It was a treat for me to share my city and country with someone for the first time. When I was able to step aside from the places and things that had become common to me and see it through Manu’s eyes I realized what a gift it is to be born into America.
The best I can tell is that Bordeaux, France or anywhere else that Manu had traveled did not have fishing supply stores that encompassed over 150,000 sq. ft. of retail space. He went nuts when we turned into the Bass Pro Shops parking lot. When it really comes down to it we should all go a little nuts when we see things that are amazingly nice, large or convenient that we now dismiss as common place. One comment that he shared was that this seemed like the land of opportunity. He was surprised to learn that some people couldn’t find a job here.
In closing, I need to revisit the question that Manu asked me; we all should continually revisit this question. “Is it common for American people to go out of their way or to be so kind as to help a stranger?” I answered, Unfortunately it isn’t that common. Most people are busy and don’t take the time to notice. This isn’t an opportunity to pat myself on the back either because there are many times that I am too busy and don’t notice those who are in need around me. However, I am glad that I noticed this time. I am grateful that I was able to help Manu see a piece of America for the first time. However, it was he that helped me the most by allowing me to see the wonder and opportunity that surrounds me each day through his eyes.
P.S. As he exited my car he turned around and yelled to me; If he ever sees an American lost in France he will be there to help!