We all began with One.
For new TCC presidents that might mean one, first, official Message. And, indeed, this column is it. But for all of us — TCC members and everyone else–it means something entirely different.
From the moment we took our first breath, we all began with One — One Country among the hundreds we count, with a lifetime ahead of us to add to that list. And in doing so, add to our exploration of the globe, its people and cultures as well as ourselves. It’s as if our birth certificate verifies the first entry on our own personal Country List, setting the stage for all the subsequent “most recents” and “upcomings!”
Of course, most of the Earth’s inhabitants will never visit even a handful of countries and will end their days with the same number they achieved on their very first day — One. Their situations will not have afforded them with the time, resources or even interest in moving beyond the places into which they were born.
Now, their lives will certainly not have been deemed a failure, for the measure of their worth will be judged by their contributions to their family, friends and surroundings — by the lives they have touched, the people they have nurtured, the communities they have enriched.
Still, these are not the people who, upon somehow learning about TCC, would immediately seek an application form for membership. For even as communication expands and the world proverbially “continues to shrink,” unwrapping the wonders of the planet and its peoples will, for them, remain elusive enigmas.
These are not people who will join us in the airport check-in line as we travel on to another country or prepare for our final flight home. Nor are they the folks who will end the day in a hotel business lounge or WiFi hotspot, checking the news or checking off another country.
They are, however, the people we will have traveled for hours to encounter. We will have rubbed shoulders with them on the metro, waved at them from a bus, received change from them at a market and, often, recorded their smiles and livelihoods with a click of a camera button; even if they were just part of the background in that photo we took because it was so memorable, so unique and so different from life “back home.”
Peoples so different from us yet each of us began with One.
Somewhere along the way, somebody or something sparked an interest in us to discover peoples and places beyond the ones we knew. We poured over maps, atlases and globes; we were intrigued rather than afraid of a new classmate or neighbor who just might “be from somewhere else.” Meanwhile, somewhere on the other side of the world, another person would grow up without the slightest knowledge of things “out there” or the ability to encounter them. But one day, our paths would cross when, by virtue of a variety of circumstances, we found ourselves blessed with the means to travel…and decided to do so!
And these wanderers are among the ones we call our TCC colleagues. Maybe we began with a short trip “over the border” or “a tropical island vacation.” Perhaps we grew up as “airline brats” or “military kids.” Our introduction might have been a “semester abroad” or a summer “hitchhiking and youth hostelling.” Others may have started later in life on a cruise, a packaged tour or an excursion with a group of friends. Some were international airline pilots, missionaries, writers, photographers, business consultants and educators. We Centurians, come from a variety of backgrounds, nationalities and occupations.
But, again, we all began with One.
The paintings, lithographs and sketches of earlier travelers and explorers recorded peoples locked in their environment, probably never to travel more than a handful of miles from the illustrated setting which, when framed, would eventually hang in a European gallery or Asian court. Those portrayed — both rustic and royal in that “exotic” land–would probably be easy to locate should the adventurer return in a short period of time for they would have gone nowhere!
Even today, when our jetliner or cruise ship departs, we leave behind people with whom we engaged only yesterday, most of whom will never venture far from where we met them. Their lives will continue with daily routines intersected with joys and pains, accomplishments and disappointments but in a cycle of familiarity.
Yet we, through the good fortune of travel, will have added experiences and discoveries in places far removed from the ordinary. For we have been touched by wanderlust, intrigued by adventure, amazed by the journey which never ends…
And we all began with One!