Recently our family visited the Grand Bahamas, one of 32 inhabited islands in the Bahamas. This beautiful island delivered on its name as we had a grand time. With gorgeous light blue ocean waters, nearly white sand, a breathtaking infinity pool overlooking the beach, and the freshest fish dinners, we couldn't have asked for more from our much needed vacation. Quality time with family and a period of rest made this a memory for the books. However, after a week on the island all this beauty was not what captured my heart. It was the local people, their culture and hospitality that filled my hearts and tugged on my spirit.
During our stay we spent hours interacting with the local Bohemian community. We discovered that 70% of the workforce in the Bahamas is connected to tourism. Every day there are hundreds of people going in and out of the country. No doubt, locals are appreciative for the tourism that has given so many of them work. However, I wonder--as I am being served a glass of squeezed orange juice each morning--who that mom or dad left at home that morning to make a very low minimum wage in a country that has a pretty high cost of living. I wonder what the passions are of the person that keeps our room clean each day. I wonder what struggles the lifeguard is going through as they come each day to the beachfront to make sure we all stay safe.
Just like I asked myself, I ask you, do we see--really SEE--the people around us each day? Do we think about the stories of those that serve so endlessly to make life comfortable for many of us?
One of the stories we got to experience during our stay on Grand Bahama Island was from a man named Michael. Ironically he looked like Michael Jackson’s brother - sun glasses, hat and all. But this man, along with many other locals, upgraded our vacation to an experience that we won’t forget. He showed us around the island and shared stories of all that makes it so rich culturally….but often quite poor. He shared with us local experiences we could participate in during our stay such as the “famous” Fish Fry on the beach (or what I call a Bohemian BBQ). But the highlight was hearing Michael's personal story.
This man actually died in a severe motorcycle accident only to see heaven and return to life here on earth. His faith was unshakable and his love for God AND for people was evident the moment you met him. This love for people has created for him a global network of friendship. As a tour guide for the island, it wasn't just a job for him; he took advantage of the opportunity to get to know other people from all over the world and care enough to begin friendships. Unfortunately, a majority of people he met that expressed interest in staying connected did not return any calls after the 3rd attempt (he told my husband three tries was his max). I do know it was their loss. I also know that all trips should be a cultural experience and not just a tourist attraction. Not just for the friendships, and not just for the entertainment, but most importantly for the awareness that is created when you get to know others walking a different life than you.
I continue to contemplate the joy I saw in the local people especially after I was told how tough life can be for many Bohemians. The kindness and hospitality was notable. Could it be that this poem was written on their hearts about a God who is with them in the midst of it all and they learn to see people as God sees them so it is worth the effort to make them feel special?
Footprints in the Sand
One night I dreamed a dream.
As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
One belonging to me and one to my Lord.
After the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,
especially at the very lowest and saddest times,
there was only one set of footprints.
This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
"Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,
You'd walk with me all the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I don't understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me."
He whispered, "My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you."