Sunday, May 18, 2014

Pets and Photographs

When I was in Turkey, I saw a number of people with cats and dogs as pets. It made me reflect upon the dearth of pets in Jordan. Sure, some people have them, but it is a small number overall. Cats are mostly left outdoors and if they happen to have an indoor home, most still retain their feral guard about them. I don’t know many people here who can snuggle in a chair with a cat.

The same goes for dogs. Dogs are considered dirty animals, a far cry from the American’s “man’s best friend.” In the farmlands dogs are work animals. I saw on Facebook the other day that a friend from Maine just brought home a Black Labrador pup and I’ve been mourning the loss of a pet. It made me think of the ways people are deprived of the companionship of a furry friend.

I saw my barber the other day as he was walking down the street. He seems so happy and content with his life. Many people visit him because he is a nice guy. I give him a tip, which he no longer refuses, because he takes good effort to make sure I like his craft.

I felt so bad for him the other day when he showed me his tri-fold wallet. He has only one photo in it and it is of himself when he was in his late 20’s. It saddened me because it may be his only photo. Photos are connections with our past and it dawned on me how uprooting it must feel not to be able to have any memories to share with others.

I contrast my cheerful barber with other street vendors. One of them mourns his situation in life; others sit back in their chairs and smoke cigarettes. I want to become their business counselors so they can invigorate their business by making themselves stand out, but, alas, I cannot do that because they are not asking me for it. I just want better for them. I know how hard work, dedication, and a vision can turn things around for people, but this is not my culture and I can’t interfere.

At an LDS gathering last night, one person asked me, “What is your most rewarding part of your ministry?” It felt odd to reply, “To listen to their stories of hardship and suffering.” Each person’s story is different and it is amazing the resiliency of some. Within their stories of heartbreak, I can see much success and transcendence. This is the work I want to be in – to hear and share stories.

I talked with one man this week whose story weakened me. I like this man and my heart wants to do something for him, but my options are so limited. Here is someone who is sincerely asking for help and his circumstance is out of my jurisdiction; then there are others who do not ask for help when I’m capable and available of providing some guidance. What a complex world we live in.

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