A traveller without observation is a bird without wings (Moslih Eddin Saadi).
One of the best things about travelling is observing other people in the place. They too may be travellers, or residents – and each goes about their business. Observing gestures, conversations, affections and movement. We are each unique but still, so alike. Across the world, across cultures, people sit with their friends and family, rush across town squares on their daily errands, buy the things they need, and retreat to the sanctuary of their homes. That of course is for those of us who are lucky enough to have friends, family and homes. I’m reminded that when we are in foreign places we don’t always observe those who are in need.
Sometimes of course we do see them – they are the street kids, the beggars, the sellers of cheap goods on street corners, or following you through the markets. They are the refugees who no longer have a home, a state. They are those who have been abandoned. Those whose mental health has abandoned them. But we can compassionately observe their situation, remember that they do not intentionally try to annoy us as they try to get us to buy their wares!
We have the luxury of travelling with a passport, an identity, a nationality. For us it is not lost, or left behind. Pope Francis at Christmas time reminded us of the suffering in the world, and gave a stern call to developed countries to be open to refugees of war and strife. He says that refugees ‘are an occasion to practice charity’. This charity should be genuine compassion and understanding of their plight, with a welcoming heart. Francis said, “Today, as the winds of war are blowing in our world and an out-dated model of development continues to produce human, societal and environmental decline, Christmas invites us to focus on the sign of the Child and to recognise him in the faces of little children, especially those for whom, like Jesus, there is ‘no place in the inn”.
These are powerful words and must make us think, especially as we have seen the children of Syria, Myanmar and other places being deprived of the very things that are the rights of all humans: a place to call home, freedom from war, safe food and water.
As I travel, usually in safe places, I try to observe the compassion and humanity of people, the tenderness of which we are all capable.
A bird without wings will die. Travelling without observation will be empty travel, without learning, without appreciation.