In February, Patti and I sailed up the Nile River from Cairo to Aswan. It was our 3rd attempt at what we have always considered the crown jewel of travel. The “Arab Spring” canceled the first trip and a fearful travel agent discouraged the second. This, the third attempt, was everything we hoped for and much more.
Like everyone, we went to see the Pyramids and though they were breathtaking, there were countless other sites equally inspiring. My favorite was Abu Simbel, the great monument Ramses II had built in his honor and that of his favorite wife, Nefretari. Perhaps the fondest memories, though, are of the people of Egypt. Warm, friendly and open, we were welcomed and enjoyed the times we spent eating with them and talking about their lives, hopes and dreams.
Something that impressed me immediately and has made me think for weeks was the Ancient Egyptians idea of passing from life to the other world. An arduous and complex journey, it was the last step that has lingered in my mind. The spirit would face 2 judges with 2 final questions. If you could not answer “yes” to both, your passage was terminated.
1)Did you experience joy in your life?
2) Did you bring joy to others?
For the 14 passengers of the private yacht, Asiya Dehabeya, the first answer was easy. We’re on a trip of a lifetime sailing the Nile while being waited on by a crew of 17. What’s not to enjoy? But that second question…. how had we given joy? Could we please the judges?
It was 2004 in El Higueral and I had seen him pass by the community center several times. He was slight of build but carried himself with pride and confidence from his clean white hat to the decorative machete sheath that hung from his belt. His already brown face, lined and darkened by sun, seemed to me, however, a gathering storm, una tormenta in Spanish. I wasn’t afraid to use my remedial Spanish on the kids but for two days I let him pass interpreting his countenance to say “Don’t mess with me”.
Finally, on the third day, “Buenos Tardes, senor”, escaped from my mouth. What appeared, yesterday, as una tormenta became una sonrisa, a smile that erupted as he responded “Hola!”, and he leaped up to join me on the porch. As bad as my Spanish is, his English was worse, but we still managed to talk about the weather, the World Cup and share a few moments together. For the rest of the week every time we saw each other we sat and chatted, as it were, for just a little while.
Would the last two judges like that answer? It was 14 years ago and it still pleases me. I think it pleased my Salvadoran amigo.
My conclusion, so far, is joy can be spread in a lot of ways. While giving material things is one, being seen and recognized by another human being might be the best and it only costs a few minutes of your time.
Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.
-- Neale Donald Walsch