I recently traveled to Ghana for my work with Saving Moses, and this was my first time to travel internationally since January 2020 because of all the Covid restrictions. Needless to say, it was a very different experience than all my pre-Covid travels. Here are some things I learned from my recent trip.
For starters, every traveler is required to wear a mask from the time you enter the airport doors until the time you exit the doors. The only time you don’t have to wear a mask is when you’re actively eating or drinking, and that’s it. While I understand the purposes of wearing a mask, I quickly learned that communication can be very challenging with the mask thing. For example, during my travels, I met a beautiful little two-year-old girl, and I thought her dad said that her name was “Wanda.” After I began calling her Wanda, her parents helped me understand that her name is “Wonder” and not Wanda. This revelation was a comical moment, and we all enjoyed a hearty laugh at my misunderstanding.
So here’s an important lesson about masks: we need to appreciate that any mask (physical or image) makes clear communication very challenging. Wearing an image mask, presenting ourselves as someone different than our authentic person can be confusing, deceptive and even destructive. Remember that you’re fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s image, and you don’t need to pretend that you’re anyone different than who God has wonderfully designed!
Another lesson I learned on this trip is the importance of being flexible and willing to learn new things. This became exceedingly clear to me when we tried to check in for our return flights. The airline check-in person explained to me that we needed to re-route our return flights because Europe won’t allow two stops on the continent in transit to the US. Our flights were supposed to go from Accra, Ghana to Brussels, to Frankfurt to Denver. Instead, they re-routed our flights such that we had only one transit stop in Europe, but it added almost 6 hours to our journey home. I was pretty cranky about learning this new regulation from the changes Covid has affected with international travel. But there wasn’t anything I could do about it except adjust my attitude and purpose to be flexible.
In relation to being flexible, I’ve found a few things that can help me to adjust my flexibility quotient. To begin with, I always find it beneficial to be grateful. When I look for things about which I can be grateful, it helps me get unstuck from the quagmire of complaining and negativity. So I was thankful that I was coming home, thankful that I was on reliable and safe planes, thankful that I had window seats on my flights, and thankful for several other things.
It also helps me to be flexible when I find some humor in these situations. Sometimes I laugh at myself, and that’s really helpful. Sometimes I find situations or some conversations that are funny, and sometimes I look for goofy jokes, which can help to give a little levity for long journeys.
The final lesson I learned was from listening to a really intense altercation between two men as I rode up the escalator in an airport. One man had rudely cut off the other guy, and they both got really angry and volatile with each other. After some back and forth heated exchanges, the man who had initiated the rude action apologized for his behavior, and the other guy didn’t really accept the man’s apology. The offending guy apologized again and a third time, but the other guy still kept being hostile, not accepting the apology. To this, the original rude guy replied, “I’ve apologized now three times for my behavior. What more do you want from me, and why won’t you accept my apology?” The other guy recognized what he was doing and sort of accepted the apology but finished the altercation with, “Just because you’ve had a long day of travel doesn’t give you the right to take it out on the rest of us.”
As I listened to this heated exchange, I noted that not forgiving an offensive behavior can be even more repulsive than the original offense. The lesson I take away from watching this exchange is that it’s very important to forgive quickly, or the offense can become poisonous and toxic in our souls.
So as we do this journey in life, let’s be mindful about the masks we wear, flexible when change is unexpected, and quick to forgive. I’m grateful for these reminders on my recent travels and hope they’re helpful to you as well!