When Diane and I talked last night, she told me of a John Rutter piece that she had not heard before. I quickly jumped on YouTube to find an incredibly moving rendition of Distant Land (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zLAyDZDOpuk&feature=related). I couldn't make out all the lyrics at first so listened very carefully to find the last several phrases especially moving:
I touch a distant hand, and feel its warmth.
The hand I hoped was there, at last I hold.
Swords into plowshares, can it all come true?
Friends out of strangers, start with me and you.
I see another time, another place.
Where we can all be one, one human race.
The walls will melt away, we'll come together on the day of freedom, freedom, freedom.
As the journey documented on my blog indicates, I've learned so much through my experience in Qatar. I have many more things to learn and hope that I have a continuing chance to experience and serve in this amazing place. There are aspects of expatriate work in general, and the Arabian Gulf in specific, that are challenging. I've experienced some of that challenge over the last week in my work and these challenges can result in a loss of purpose and passion about what we are doing. A song like Distant Land brings everything back into perspective because it places all our work in a broader context - what are we doing and what do we hope to accomplish for ourselves, for others, and for the world?
My life has been filled with intellectual and artistic opportunity but I've generally looked for insight to emanate from learned people with advanced degrees or to highly esoteric art forms that symbolize the human experience. I still find these sources useful but the profound change in me has been finding "the hand I hoped was there" in my young friend, Sha, and in his "brothers" who greet me everywhere I go. The simple acts that I now savor truly can bring the dream "Where we can all be one, one human race" to reality. I've learned this not in big decisions but in the acts of kindness that protect the dignity of those we encounter in the simple moments.