Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Humans of Europe: A Pound from Matthew

In my last post, I wrote about a goal I have for this trip, i.e., to engage at least one person every day and then write about the encounter. Yesterday, I wrote about our ticket agent at the Delta counter in Salt Lake. Today, I will introduce you to Matthew.

Once again, I wish I had taken a picture of Matthew. Here’s what happened.

After we had finished at the TSA oversized baggage counter, our next task was to exchange some money at the Zion’s Bank counter. There hadn’t been anyone in line, but just before we headed over, a group of a half-dozen or so sister missionaries got in line.  They were interesting to watch. After completing her transaction, one sister walked by me muttering, a scowl on her face, “That was weird.” I couldn’t help thinking that this young woman has a lot to learn about judging people and being open to new experiences.

I thought the same as I saw elders hanging around, making phone calls on the pay phones. I noticed the different cuts of suits, some edgy but most standard issue. I also noticed that more than a few elders were wearing light brown shoes with their dark suits. That would have been a fashion faux pas back in the day, but I guess it’s okay now.

There must have been a least two dozen missionaries seated just behind us. I kept telling Mark to breathe (He has strong feelings about what these young men and women do, or rather what the LDS Church asks them to do.

As I looked at these young missionaries, I was reminded of my journey to France almost 30 years ago to the day. We flew to New York, then on to Paris on an Air France flight. I sat next to a French woman from Nancy. We conversed about what I was going to be doing in France, and of course I tried to give her a Book of Mormon, which she politely declined. Just as we were preparing to land, she turned to me and said, “Well, I think what you are doing is very interesting. However, if you’re going to work with the French, you really need to learn how to speak French.” I was crestfallen. What a reality check.

Me, my mission president and his wife, upon my arrival at the mission home outside Paris in August 1984

But I digress. Back to Matthew.

As I was standing in line to exchange money, a 20-something young man entered the line behind me. He asked if I might have any coin. (As I write this in our room, I hear a church bell ringing in the distance through our open windows.) He was English, a tall, blonde with a clear complexion and a very large smile. He exuded a sunny outlook on life. I said I didn’t. Turned out he needed money to use a pay phone to call the person who was to pick him up. 

After a few minutes, I had a “duh” moment, turned to him and said, “Would you like to use my cell phone to call your friend?” Brilliant smile. “That would be great!” he replied. “Are you sure you don’t mind?” I handed him the phone, and he called his friend, reaching his voice mail. Matthew left a message, hung up and then asked if it would be ok to text his friend as well. “Sure.” 

When he was done, he handed the phone back and said, holding out a coin. “This is a British pound. I won’t be going back to England for quite some time. Please take it. Perhaps you may have use for it someday.” With that, he smiled – again – and took off. It made me feel good that I’d been able to help a complete stranger.

Life is grand.

Meanwhile, we arrived at our destination, Le Freney d'Oisans, late yesterday afternoon after driving down through gorgeous scenery from Geneva. Today, the plan is to ride the Alpe d'Huez. Should be interesting since we haven't been on our bikes since last Friday.

Scene just outside our hotel this morning.

This is the first thing I saw as I went outside this morning.

The bike mechanic at work.

1 comment:

  1. Everything is so beautiful. Excited for all the beautiful pictures and stories to come :)