I am convinced that the greatest characteristic of being human is the capacity for relationship. As human beings our interactions are pregnant with potential, moving beyond mere utilitarian roles to the realm of empathy, selfless acts of compassion and solidarity with the other. Time and time again history reveals that these attributes are not solely reserved for members of the same tribe or clan but rather cross the lines of diversity and are displayed freely on the landscape of culture and society. We marvel when a stranger welcomes the other like family, when the unknown offers a familiar hand of assistance, when the local treats the alien like a neighbor. It’s as if in these moments the veil of self-protection and division is lifted and we see how life should be - that thin place where the best of who we are and who we were created to be is manifested on the stage of existence. Like a spark, this display of altruism ignites a vision for an alternative way of living, and it is in these moments we recognize at the depths of our being that we do not travel alone.
This truth was profoundly demonstrated to me during my recent trip to Bali. Traveling solo, I was without my system of support, though frightening at times, it provided the opportunity to receive the gift of relationship from the unsuspecting other. It was in the absence of my own community that I discovered the community of the stranger. It was in the vacuum of my sufficiency that I was open to the offering of the outsider. It was in my need that the universality of love emerged.
Mindful of this phenomenon unfolding, I determined to participate in it rather than resist it. The fruit of that decision are the photos and simple stories that are listed below. These are not all of the people whom I encountered during my travels; it would be nearly impossible to name and picture each one. However, these few represent the ever-present community of strangers around us who reveal the inherent gift of compassion woven through the very fabric of human DNA . Our only task is to have open hearts and minds to receive their gifts of friendship, care and mutuality; and by doing so, overcome the debilitating myth that we are isolated people destined to hoard and protect our own.
Saying that, allow me to introduce you to the community of the other that showed me great kindness. Take your time as you scroll through the images and captions; look at their eyes and hear their stories echoing in the background.
Who is it that surrounds you? Who are the people that are serendipitously placed in your life - the strangers that are so often overlooked? They are there, but you must be in a place to receive the gift of their relationship. You only need to pause, acknowledge your need, open your eyes to see them and welcome their friendship.
The truth is, we never travel alone.