My plane touched down halfway around the world. As we taxied to the airport, I rubbed the sleep from my eyes. I was exhausted after what had been a grueling twelve-hour flight. Which was understandable considering this was Day 19 on a 21-day international trip. Frankly, I wasn’t looking forward to making my way through customs. I knew from previous experience that some agents in foreign countries attempt to con incoming passengers out of their cash.
I made my way through baggage claim and then approached a customs officer. I felt like Dorothy standing before the Great and Powerful Oz. With a frown, he studied my passport and visa. He shook his head side-to-side as if the paperwork wasn’t in order. His face morphed into a stern look. He informed me I had the wrong visa and wouldn’t be permitted entry. Ugh!
I knew he was looking for a bribe but I wasn’t about to fork over any cash. So I played dumb. Noticing my hesitation, he said for $20 he could fix things for me. I wasn’t about to play that game and continued to act as if I didn’t understand his request. After several tense minutes of haggling with me, the agent stamped my paperwork and, with a huff, waved me in.
Outside of the terminal, I called a taxi, tossed my bags in the trunk, then settled in for the trip across town. Considering the fact that I’d just been in six different countries, a heavy dose of culture shock weighed me down as I sat in the back seat. I longed to be in the familiar surroundings of my home. I missed my family.
I would have gladly done anything just to be under the covers in my own bed. Whispering a prayer for strength, I stared out the taxicab window. Several things struck me about this particular city: the smog, the dirtiness, and the difficulty getting around. In some ways the city combined the congestion of New York City with the smog of Los Angeles. Not pretty.
Turning to the notes in a folder on my lap, I decided to get some work done before arriving at my destination. Several moments later, I felt the Lord nudging me. I got the impression He wanted me to set aside my notes for a minute and look around at my surroundings. We had rolled to a stop at an intersection. I looked out the window.
Five barefoot kids came into view. With broad smiles and bursts of laughter, they were happily at play in a dirty mud hole. Using a Coke can as if it were a boat, they took turns piloting the small vessel through the murky water. I was struck by how contented these children were playing with a discarded can. They didn’t need to have the latest gadget or hot new toy to be happy. Their delight in such a simple thing was infectious.
Still marveling at their state of contentment, I smiled. I said, “I get ya, Lord. I don’t need to have stuff to have joy in my heart. Thanks for the lesson today.”