I meet a lot of interesting people. Seriously.
Like this friend of mine who was raised by hippies. When he hit his teenage years, he rebelled against his parents by getting a crew cut, making a 4.0 GPA, and joining the Republican Party. I tell you, his parents were deeply concerned for him.
Or a friend from South Africa. He used to be an accountant, but one day he tossed his suits, flew to Europe, and joined the hippie colony in Christiania, Denmark. I took a couple YWAM courses with him, and he always hitchhiked to Switzerland--not because he didn't have train fare, but because it was more interesting to talk story with strangers along the way. He has a knack for coming up with puns and a tendency to formulate conspiracy theories, so much so that in one of our schools the leader limited him to 5 questions or comments per day. When I heard he was doing accounting again, I couldn't quite believe it. I wrote him to see if it was true. His response: "It's true. I even bought a pin-stripe suit so people will take me seriously...but it has holes in both knees, so no one will think I've conformed."
I had a roommate once who was the sweetest, gentlest person you'll ever meet, but there was something really strange about her. Have you ever woken up from a nightmare panicked and sweating? She had nightmares almost every night, but lacked the ability to wake up from them. She would be fast asleep, screaming at the top of her lungs. I would climb down from my bunk, shake her until she woke up, and spend ten to fifteen minutes soothing her and praying with her because her nightmares were so terrifyingly real.
I know a First Nation Brazilian who was buried alive as an infant but survived, and a couple who repeatedly smuggled Bibles into the Soviet Union at great personal risk, and an Indian musician who grew up impoverished but his music has taken him to every nation on earth. I've met a Cossack whip dancer, a Ghanaian princess, and "the Michael Jackson of the Russian-speaking world."
Once I traveled around Greece and Italy with a friend from New Zealand. While in Italy we met up with this guy who was the Olympic training coach for the New Zealand sailing team. He thought being a Kiwi exempted him from "No shirt, no shoes, no service." I'm not sure he even owned shoes. We spent a day exploring Florence barefoot, and he wore this ridiculous chef hat with an Italian flag on the front (thankfully we talked him out of the apron depicting the relevant section of the statue of David!). He kept stepping into tourists' photos and posing with them. Sometimes he would walk right up and put his arms around a Japanese couple or a pair of American teenagers, other times he posed in the background for them to discover him in the frame later on. He was hilarious, but also deep. He would talk about being out at sea, miles and miles away from any other person. He had a relationship with the ocean, something deeper than I can even understand. He can read the stars and the wind, can predict the weather forecast far more accurately than the radio stations with all their equipment. Also, he can fix anything with chewing gum, duct tape, and a small bit of wire.
My great aunt Maureen never had children, so she tried to convince the family to list her dogs as her offspring. Our family tree is a published book. The Starbucks were the first settlers of Nantucket Island and we're the closest-linked relatives to Abraham Lincoln. There's no way in hell Blossom the dog is going in that book! To protest the exclusion she refused to attend family reunions thereafter. For thirty years she lived in an apartment in Watergate. When Blossom got too fat to walk, Maureen ordered an old-fashioned baby buggy from Europe so she could push the dog around the streets of D.C. I'm not exaggerating when I say the dogs legs were so short and its belly so big it would scoot itself around on its stomach using its legs like oars. Because she was still offended about the family tree thing, she up and moved to Wyoming without telling anybody. She got a kick out of the idea that we'd all wonder about her and never know where she'd gone. Well, my mom tracked her down in two days, which irritated the heck out of her! I'll forever remember her in a large-brimmed black hat, scolding me for not twirling my pasta onto my fork the correct Italian way.
Whenever I think of the countries I've been to, I think of people. Every pin on the map has faces and stories attached to it, and they are what make places memorable. Human beings are just so endlessly interesting. People save for years to travel to the Grand Canyon or the beaches of Hawaii or the glaciers of Alaska, but the real wonders of creation are around us every day. They are us! We're wonderful, you and I.
We are letters from Christ, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.