“When you eat mindfully, by paying attention to what you eat, you get more pleasure with fewer calories.” ~ Dean Ornish.
My father was a man who had great faith, but who also believed in doing his part to ensure good outcomes. He would say he always knew when God wanted him to do something (as in when he accepted a job in Jamaica) but he made sure to do his due diligence, to try to anticipate what planning and arranging and packing and researching needed to be done way ahead of the day we set sail. Considering my parents had five children at the time (ranging in age from 7 through 17 when they started to pack), it must have been quite a challenge.
Those were different times. He had a lengthy correspondence going with several ministers in Jamaica, seeking advice, accepting and rejecting some. I was fortunate enough to be able to read some of those letters after the death of my mother, when we were going through her carefully preserved records of their life together. One correspondent (a white minister who lived in Kingston) had suggested that my father leave his three teenage girls in England, since it would be difficult for them to make friends in a country school. The thinly veiled prejudice revealed the divisions in the society at a time when Jamaica had only recently become independent. Thankfully my father politely ignored that advice (his family was a part of his ministry, he replied) and the family unit began their excellent adventure.
Sailing across the wide Atlantic Ocean gave me my early lessons in geography and meteorology. They had started when I had to correct amazed well-wishers who thought Jamaica was in Africa. The route we took stopped at many ports along the way, Madeira is one name that springs to mind at the European end. After the long haul across the Atlantic we dropped anchor off the coast of Venezuela, visited the beautiful island of St. Lucia, began to see the bright colors of the Caribbean. Jamaica was out of bounds for a while as hurricane Flora decided to lead the way there for us.
For a child of not quite eight, I was privileged to learn that a world existed outside of England where the way of life was quite different. The language was (almost) the same, but with a twist. The food choices were quite different – no roast beef and potatoes, but an amazing selection of aromatic and spicy meals. The fruits, well some I knew, but many were strange and exotic. I was introduced to sweet sop, tamarinds, naseberries, star-apple, otahiti apple, jimbelin, custard-apple, and many more.
I don’t know when it was that I became aware of the country known as the United States of America. When you are living in country with little access to international news (I don’t believe we owned a television until 1970), it is only major news that overtakes local, and children didn’t really have to worry about those things back then. We minded our own business and tried to stay out of trouble! We didn’t have 24/7 news cycles, images repeated over and over to give us nightmares. I must have heard of the deaths of John F Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, but I can’t tell you what I was doing when I heard.
By the time I was a teenager, I began to have access to international news, mostly through Time magazine that I found in the school library. I had also spent a year in England when I was thirteen (my father had returned to study for his Master’s degree) and I remember witnessing the moon landing on TV. Later, back in Jamaica, I was fascinated to read the Watergate saga unfold, trying to figure out what it all meant. America was a fascinating but flawed place, a contradiction of high possibilities and low life activities.
The biggest and life-long impact that travel at such an early age had on me was to respect the diversity of the world, and the beauty of differences. Admittedly as an adolescent it was challenging to try to blend in when I was white with straight blonde hair, and everyone around me was sporting afros! But it taught me that there is no one way to view things, that just because a person’s perspective on the world is different from yours does not make it wrong. When I eventually came to live in the USA, it was with a healthy distrust of the institutions of power, an ability to see that liberty and justice are not applied equally to all.
We are all being given lessons every day, if we are open to them. The example of one world leader’s response to a national tragedy is so different from the absence of such leadership closer to home. We are challenged every day to keep doing the right thing, saying the right thing, when there seems to be so many examples of the opposite. Corruption in high places barely ruffles the surface of some consciences. Inhumanity and cruel practices towards immigrant children have somehow become the status quo. Too many things to list, too many horrors that our minds cannot hold them, we push them aside.
On this Friday morning we are all challenged to be more aware of our own words and actions, making sure we are not contributing to the unhealthy discourse. We should look beyond our own borders at the life challenges that others face. We must be mindful of the consequences of our own choices. When we bring intentionality to our actions, we can get more pleasure out of each day. Have a wonderful weekend Family! I am somewhat under the weather, so looking forward to a wonderful weekend!
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