A moment doesn’t have to last a few seconds; it can last decades.
There are some exciting stories from my life that I would like to share with you. One is fascinating and about overcoming circumstances, and the other is funny, bewildering, and about kindness.
Traveling the world on someone else’s dime
I was a simple and poor country boy from the woods of Jonesboro, Louisiana. I accepted a scholarship to study Premed at a local liberal arts college a couple of hours away from home. Toward the end of my first year in college, I worked as a tech support representative at a local dial-up internet company. As my first college summer approached, a good friend, Nate, was looking for a job, and he joined the company as a business associate.
The internet company’s owner, Gordon, had another venture that sold telephone traffic from developing nations to major US carriers. Gordon was looking for someone with advanced computer knowledge who worked in a Unix environment (I was five years old when I began computer programming) and business acumen.
Nate and I jumped at the opportunity. I flew to Clearwater, Florida, for two weeks of training on a new voice-over IP (VOIP) technology. After this, Nate and I got our first assignment; travel to Panama City, Panama, and wait to install satellite telephony equipment. We arrived, and the Panamanian government had confiscated the satellite dish and telephony equipment. We waited seven days for our local partners to remedy the situation, but at night we danced salsa until the sun came up.
For the rest of the summer, we skirted the globe, making several trips to Sri Lanka, Jamaica, Nigeria; it was just me and my best friend. We even got invited to tea by Sir Arthur C. Clarke in Colombo. As summer wound down, I wasn’t ready to go back to school, so I decided to drop out of college and worked full-time. Nate returned to school.
While working on a six-month project in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, I received two more assignments to Kyiv, Ukraine, and St. Petersburg, Russia. However, I never got to travel there because, like most start-ups, it went under, leaving me with only my wonderfully incredible free experiences. I was this young black teenager from the sticks that got to see the world (see where I’ve traveled or lived in the image below).
“Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work, so most people don’t recognize them.” — Ann Landers
Way Downunder Mate
I returned to university, but now I was living in Fullerton, California. I had quit my job at Pier One Imports to do biomedical research as my part-time hustle. I was lucky that there was an opportunity to travel to a sister lab in Melbourne, Australia, to do a summer internship. Here again, I was going to travel to another continent on someone else’s dime. The winter in Melbourne was beautiful, and I enjoyed my time there. I even got a girlfriend (it didn’t work out).
For a long weekend, I decided to travel to Tasmania. The plan was to fly to Launceston, take a bus to different cities with hostels, then to Hobart, and fly back to Melbourne. I got off at the first bus stop in St. Helens and skipped over to the hostel. I met Johnny, a Nepalese guy who was a university student in Hobart and was interested in seeing the white sand beaches and the Blue Tier old-growth rainforest.
Johnny somehow convinced me that I didn’t have to pay for a bus that, instead, I could hitch-hike around the island. I was pretty apprehensive because I am a black man with dreadlocks in Australia; I thought no one would ever pick me up. However, we did just that, and the first person to pick us up was this little old lady that drove us to St. Mary’s. The following person drove a Bentley, and the next was a family.
We made it to Hobart, and I stayed at Johnny’s house; then, I said goodbye to him and flew back to Melbourne the following day. I never thought I would ever see Johnny again. It was such a fantastic experience that I called my best friend, Anjali, and told her she needed to travel to Tasmania so we could hitch-hike around the island.
A couple of months later, we had the same experience as Johnny and I did. On the last leg to Hobart, a young college student gave us a lift and offered his house as a place to crash. The house and the neighborhood seemed quite familiar. Since it was a long day, I decided to turn in early, only to be awakened by this big voice…to my surprise, it was Johnny. I somehow got a lift from his roommate. It was weird that I meet Johnny again, but I chalked it up to a coincidence. However, this time, we exchanged information, but I soon lost it. I thought I would never see Johnny again.
My Australian girlfriend wanted me to visit over their summer break. This trip was six months after my research internship. I was thrilled to go, even though I wouldn’t be traveling to Tasmania. One morning while exploring the different neighborhoods of Melbourne, my girlfriend and I stop for some coffee. We were sitting at an outside table when I hear, “Hey Brother! Hey Brother! Hey Brother.” I turned and looked, and it was Johnny. I ran into him on a random street 720km away from his home. It was fate. I retook his information. Sadly, I lost it again. I wonder why it was so important that I continually meet Johnny. He did open my eyes to the kindness of strangers. Maybe that is the lesson.
“Kindness can become its own motive. We are made kind by being kind.” — Eric Hoffer.
Take these stories and think about how they relate to your life. We are more alike than different, and we share common themes and stories. Can you relate to these stories? Share your stories in the comments.
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