Disposition to Be Pleased

There is a story I always think of when I first cross the Jordan River into Israel. It is a moment in the life of Thomas who, unfortunately, has been branded by history with the preface—“DOUBTING.” For some reason we remember Thomas at one of his weakest moments. Yet there is another story of Thomas found in the New Testament which took place east of the Jordan River. Jesus had just received word that Lazarus was sick and Mary and Martha urged him to come to Bethany. This was dangerous for Jesus as an attempt had recently been made on his life. The apostles warn him about taking the journey but when they see he is determined to go to Bethany it is Thomas who speaks. “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” Why do we not call this courageous apostle, “Devoted Thomas?”

I think it is best to remember people at their best moments not their worst. I have found this to be true of nations also. When we travel it is always best to see other peoples and cultures in the kindliest light we can bring. If we look for goodness we will surely find it everywhere. I have noticed that the people of other countries warm wonderfully to visitors who appreciate the unique contributions and beauty of their homeland. Mark Twain once said: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.” He wrote two remarkable books covering his wide travels to many nations of the world and although he sees reasons for mirth everywhere there is no mistaking his admiration for the lands and people he encountered. Travel helps us drop the sometimes exclusive nature of a too deeply rooted sense of our own national identity and broadens it to an inclusive love of the world.

When in the Netherlands, I never fail to remind myself of the words written by one of their greatest native sons, Erasmus of Rotterdam once said: “I wish to be a citizen of the world, not of a single city….The whole universe is my fatherland.”

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S. Michael Wilcox is an educator traveling with Fun for Less Tours.

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