There’s nothing like a trip to the developing world to get a good lesson on what really matters in life. The moment my plane came to a halt at the airport in Jordan, a man sitting across the aisle from me smiled and said, “Welcome to Jordan.” His words and the spirit behind them mattered.
Akram diligently waited for more than an hour and a half without knowing whether we were in the airport after our plane arrived while we attempted to locate some lost luggage. He cheerfully greeted us and said, “Welcome to Jordan,” before driving us to our hotel.
The nighttime journey from the airport to the hotel included whizzing by the new Ikea Store in Amman as well as some quick glimpses of Bedouin tents and goat herds located in the spaces between high rises and roadways. We also passed the new Taj Mall that looked something like a modern version of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
Within a day of our arrival, we were directed to Sufra, an outstanding restaurant featuring local cuisine. We were rewarded with a great traditional mensaf (lamb and rice) and another “welcome to Jordan” from a group of young men we passed after leaving the restaurant. I have worked in many countries around the world, but I have never been made to feel more welcome than I was in Jordan. It is an understatement to say that I enjoy working in the Middle East, and the principal reason that’s true is the many friends I’ve made during my assignments.
The region is also home to some of the world’s most spectacular historic sites, and we saw several during our trip. I’m not sure I had ever heard of the Roman ruins in Jerash before our trip, but they rival any I have seen in Italy or other parts of the old empire. We were also able to visit the Dead Sea, the River Jordan, the mosaics in Madoba, the ruins at Um Qaas, the Citadel in Amman, and, of course, the incredible tombs in Petra. Throughout our travels, I was struck by the contrasts between wealth and deprivation, although we see can see those same contrasts in different ways in our own country.
I commented to my wife during our tour of the ruins in Jerash that the Romans lacked a good capital improvement program, and I suppose the same could be said for Detroit. The real lesson I took from walking through the remains of great civilizations is recognizing the challenges of sustaining the things that matter most in our lives.
What really matters to me is the opportunity to experience the best of what life offers without being overwhelmed by the worst. I have been incredibly fortunate that my interaction with family, friends, coworkers, community, and people around the world has allowed me to maintain a positive view of life. I can’t stop the wars in the Middle East or erase the national debt; but like the many people in Jordan who treated me with kindness, I can pass it along and hope for the best.