John’s Beautiful Gift

Even this Golden Retriever needs a reminder sometimes. A reminder not to let the little things drag you down. And, lets face it, most of the day to day troubles or frustrations are little things. Thank goodness.

Jeff and I attended the birthday party of a friend in Santiago. And it was quite an affair. One hundred people gathered from across the globe to celebrate the life of a remarkable man. That sounds almost like a eulogy but it really wasn’t. He is healthy and gave his own speech, and it was filled with tears and gratitude. For those gathered and for those people who are in need around the world.

In typical John fashion, he requested that instead of gifts we consider donating to his Raise the Roof campaign through the Irish Jesuits to replace the roof of a Jesuit centre in Aleppo Syria that had been bombed. It provides local medical and community services to those surviving war in Aleppo. Regardless of their religion. Essential to the community. And this is not the first campaign he has waged for people in desperate need around the world. As he thanked all those present for their generosity, he ran down the list of past appeals for worthy causes to help the most desperate. Those impacted by war, famine, disease. Recognizing that those gathered had always rallied and answered his call to help.

John is a Scottish Pilgrim from Glasgow, who has walked more than 50 Caminos, both long and short. And helping those who help Pilgrims is another of his passions. He has given me sage advice. Introduced me to those who can help me navigate. And been a cheerleader and a listening ear when it all seems to go sideways. His ‘we’ll fight the bastards.’ at just the right time made me smile.

Sitting there at the party with my shorn head on a rainy Friday evening in that old convent, I got a healthy dose of much needed perspective. Hair grows back. The policia can bite me. I am healthily at long last. So far, I have found my way through everything. Sure, there are things I can not change. I am an American. I can’t do anything about that. And yes, there are tough days living in a foreign country. (Someday I’ll surprise everyone and get my Spanish citizenship) But nothing I have faced compares to the list of difficulties faced by those John spoke about that night. Nothing. I have blessings I needed to count. And a serious dose of medicinal perspective I needed to swallow.

Looking at John up there speaking, I heard a man who wasn’t there to celebrate himself. He was there to celebrate everyone else. Those closest to him in the room, and those whom he will never meet but whose lives he has touched profoundly. As usually happens whenever I spend time with John, I spent the next 24 hours reflecting. A reminder that when things get bumpy its best not to brood, but to look outside yourself for those who need a helping hand. For it is in the service of others that we find our purpose and ourselves. Thank you, John, for such a wonderful birthday gift.

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