I count it a privilege that I have been and seen some of the amazing places that I have, and since 2012 when I landed my first freelance gig and took my first production trip, I have been on countless projects in over a dozen countries on 5 continents. Say WHAT!?
I know, when i stop to reflect on that and really think about what that means, it blows me away and I have to pinch myself sometimes. But i would never have had any of these experiences without being willing to put myself out there that very first time, something we talked about a few episodes ago. Its a dream job and glamorous in some senses maybe, but it doesn’t come without sacrifice or hard work.
Early this year I took my second trip in the past 9 months to the country of Lebanon. Now Lebanon can be a scary place to think about visiting for most Americans, and in fact I can remember friends and family who questioned my going to either myself or my wife about a year ago. All sincere and well meaning questions like, “is it safe?” “what is he going to be doing?” “isn’t Lebanon right next to Syria?” And honestly, I didn’t know exactly where I would be or what the work would look like till I arrived, but what I DID know, was that my client traveled to Lebanon multiple times a year, had been doing so for the past decade or more and I trusted him, so I was definitely flying on a little “blind faith” but to me, it was a (quote unquote) risk worth taking.
You know, in ANYTHING, we can do the research and hop online and find countless things to support doing or NOT doing anything. Like for instance, if you take a look on the travel.gov website (where i go to research visa requirements and travel advisories), it says:
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to avoid travel to Lebanon because of the threats of terrorism, armed clashes, kidnapping, and outbreaks of violence, especially near Lebanon’s borders with Syria and Israel.
And it goes on and on about specific recent attacks, and things to be aware of. And being AWARE is great, but letting that fear keep us from leaning in and doing meaningful work, in ANY area home or abroad, is a tragedy.
Now, of course the government has to provide all of these reasonable warnings to kind of cover their back, and thats fine. For me, I believe that when God decides my time is up, my time is up - period, so in general, I don’t really care about most of those warnings. besides, a terrorist attack can happen anytime anywhere without warning so pretty much, you can’t hide. But lets not linger on the depressing shall we - lets move on the part I really want to talk about, which is gaining perspective.
Sometimes regardless of how awesome or awful things are going, I think it is refreshing and helpful to get a healthy dose of perspective. And perspective can look different for each of us. But if you’ve ever traveled anywhere overseas or were really able to be immersed in another culture and a place where you don’t know the language, you learn quite quickly that there are SO many things to be thankful for at home.
It can be simple things, like running water perhaps, and a sewer system, or it can be paved roads, or your coffee. But no matter the case, it give us perspective.
There is a lot of talk these days here in the states about refugees. Do we let them in? Do we shut them out.
And I don’t know where you stand on the refugee scenario, and frankly I don’t care, that is not what I am here to talk about or debate, but I want you to imagine something with me for a moment...
Its saturday morning and you are in your comfortable american home, sipping your morning coffee, and everything is business as usual. Then you hear gunfire and bombing in the distance. That seems odd, but on this day, its not just the neighbor’s loud TV, its the real thing. Its the sound of a rouge patriot militia group who wants to take over the US and spread their own political and religious agenda, and they’ve decided that the way they’re going to do it is by killing everyone who stands in their way.
Reality sinks in hard and fast, and as your heart begins to race, and your stomach drops, you realize that you don’t have time to finish your coffee, pack a nice suitcase, call grandma and have a chat - no. you have to get outta dodge! and FAST! so you do the most sensible thing, you gather what is most important to you - your kids, your spouse, your family, and you run! To save some time I am going to fast forward through the part of you hiding in the hills and bushes to sneak past the militia at night, not having food or water for days and so forth, but finally you find yourself in a new place, lets call it Canada, our friendly northern neighbors, where you cannot legally work, and so you struggle in poverty to survive. It doesn’t matter anymore that you are a doctor or lawyer, or made a great living, had a nice house or cars, those are long gone.
This is the story for the vast majority of refugees. And if it were you, one of the things you need most is HOPE. And these people need to know that they matter. And that they are not forgotten. they are just as much a human as you and me, and they have hopes and dreams too. And most of those hopes and dreams were shattered and lost when they fled their villages and homes.
This is real stuff. Its not just a primetime fictional TV story, but sometimes it feels that way bc its so far away and doesn’t really affect us in our daily lives. But trust me, ITS REAL.
Now, The organization that I have the privilege to serve through Harbor Media Group is really in the trenches so to speak, EVERY SINGLE DAY. And their team is building relationships through unconditional love and service to these refugees. SO much more than merely transactional relief of so many well meaning and needed organizations, Heart for Lebanon is changing lives. Its RELATIONAL. The people they are serving matter.
And what you probably DONT know, is that Syria occupied and oppressed the Lebanese people for YEARS. So for the people of Lebanon to be serving them unconditionally and spending time listening to their heartbreaking stories, and leaning into this, well, mess is a big deal.
So for me, its an absolute HONOR to spend time with them. To sit in their tents or homes and just listen. To show that I care by spending time with them, by asking questions, by crying, sometimes even weeping together.
I sometimes ask myself what can I do? But I’ve realized that one of my greatest contributions is to do what I do best and feel called to do - tell stories. Spread the word. Communicate to as many people as I can back here in the west, that this is real, and they need our help. Our financial support, and more than just our thoughts, our prayers.
Now i share all of that to provide some perspective to you my western friends. but to ME, I feel so strongly that the work I do and the company I run exists to serve people, and to share stories that need to be told, that I am not really intimidated by the potential dangers. Quite frankly, ANYWHERE in the world has potential danger! You can’t insulate or isolate yourself just to avoid pain. What a waste. Instead I think that putting yourself out there, serving others and making genuine and real connections and building relationships with others - THAT goes a long way.
I am SO grateful for opportunities like these that broaden my horizons, and change my perspective.
So what about you? How comfortable are you in your own little world, population - YOU? Where you just have to take care of yourself, maybe a family, snag that paycheck every two weeks, have some nice stuff, do some cool things… I challenge you to get some perspective. Get outside of your comfort zone, even if all that means right now, is giving a day to serve at a local charity, or homeless shelter, or food bank. Do SOMETHING. Just start. Force yourself to get out of your comfort zone and when you get that dose of perspective, let it really change you - at the heart level, not just the head level.
We can make a difference. And our lives are meant to be lived for SO much more than ourselves.
Regardless of if you are able to get out of the country or not, CHOOSING to engage in something that puts you out of your comfort zone to gain perspective I promise you, can change you for the better.