Not sure what time it is back home as I write this, but at the moment Sid and I are sitting in a Starbucks in Dublin, Ireland. We had somehow accumulated an inordinate number of Marriott points which turned into a fully paid big trip which we would either use or lose if not used this year, so we booked this trip about six months ago. We decided it would be a meaningful way to celebrate my big birthday last year, Sid’s big birthday next year, and our 18th (chai!) anniversary this year. We’ll be spending a few days here on our own before we connect with a tour of Portugal.
The weeks leading up to this day have been filled to overflowing for me. Work has been busy. More than one trip to Dallas to help care for my dying relative. Stressful medical appointments. Passport complications not resolved until the day before we left. Beautiful High Holy Day experiences but with responsibilities too. So for many reasons, I was not vested in, or even looking forward to the trip, always in the back of my mind thinking Covid may scrap the whole plan anyway.
As Sid and I arrived in Dublin this morning at 4:30 AM, I was starting to feel in the moment, in a good way, feeling we are really here. No matter we were shlepping our bags in beautiful Dublin and nothing was open. And there it was – Starbucks. By the time we got there, its welcoming lights were just what we needed.
What a blessing, beyond words, to be able to have a coffee and a bite together in this foreign land. And yet, just as we felt the Starbucks connection, so too, I am struck by a greater feeling of community around us. Along with the common décor of any Starbucks, face masks were required here as also recommended in the U.S. and Covid tracing scanners graced every table, visible reminders for public awareness of our common fight against Covid. We even had to show our vaccination cards to be served! It was not the differences that were apparent, but rather, our similarities. Across thousands of miles, we are all in this fight together.
I am also so impressed with the communal approach to reducing carbon emissions. I see a number of walkers, busses, and bikes rather than cars, demonstrating a country that prioritizes our impact on the environment by taking steps to lower car emission pollution. The Luas, the above ground tram or light rail, is state of the art. On this center city street and throughout downtown Dublin, there is no street parking. In fact, I see very few cars at all. Rather, the bike lanes are separated from the driving lanes by actual concrete curbs to encourage safe commuting by bike. The busses are all double decker.
Granted, Ireland is not that different in many ways from the United States culturally. Yet its distinctives only enhance the experience rather than separate us. Culturally we can appreciate the differences without the need to modify our distinctives that make us American and these people Irish. That is the fun of foreign travel. It is only in the areas where we need to support the well being of the other that our observances and interactions can work together to make an improved existence for both, where cultural differences vanish to create a common good that benefits all.
Seeing our relationship in this foreign land, our individualism expressed productively within a community, was a vivid reminder of the importance of remaining aware of our effect on others. We are not islands unto ourselves. Who we are and what we do has a ripple effect not just to those in our immediate spheres, but also, each to the other in our local communities, our nation, and literally the world. What an amazingly beautiful world HaShem has given to us to work together to share this gift for all.
I encourage you to be aware of your special place in the bigger picture of His created universe as you share His love through acts of kindness and good stewardship.