The Atlantic Institute trips are planned out of Atlanta and coordinated with friends in Turkey who support the same broad mission and purpose – working to alleviate poverty, ignorance and prejudice, not just through human and financial efforts, but by building infrastructure (schools, hospitals, a relief organization, etc.). These arrangements often involve little or no exchange of money and occur between people who may not know each other. Rather they are based on a loose agreement among friends who believe in and are bound together by a common cause.
One vivid example from the trip involves the loss of a passport.
After a busy day visiting the sights in Cappadocia, we made our way by coach to an airport maybe a little over an hour away. When we got close with a little time to spare, we stopped at a restaurant for a meal, and one of our travelers realized that she did not have her passport. Following the requisite level of panic, she concluded she had probably left her purse in a gas station rest room where we had stopped early in our journey. I kept company with the group at the meal table while our leader stepped outside and made a couple of calls. A few moments later he reentered the restaurant and intermediated a conversation between the unfortunate traveler and a person who had found the bag. With guidance, the voice at the other end of the line found the passport in an inside pocket. Our leader stepped away to wrap up the call and, when he returned, told us a taxi driver was bringing the purse and would meet us at the airport, where we would pay him. Of course it all happened as anticipated.
This level of trust permeated our journey. Each time we arrived in a new place we were met by and taken round the city in a vehicle provided by a friend; we stayed in accommodation provided by friends; we visited houses and schools on the invitation of friends. And many of these friends were invisible and even unknown. One of the highlights of the trip, an evening with the whirling dervishes, came up at the last minute, an unexpected and wonderful invitation from one such friend who we would never meet. Were it not for the kindness of so many friends, not only would the logistics of the trip have been impossible, it would have lacked much, maybe most of its content.
This level of trust also became natural to the traveling group itself. We moved quickly, in a fluid environment, with constantly changing plans and it became natural to let go of our plan for the day and trust our leader completely. Each morning he gave us an idea of what we would do, but we knew that our plans would shift during the day, that new opportunities would come up, and that whatever happened we would have a great time. And with so much travel, so much activity, and such large crowds, our own band of traveling strangers quickly came to rely on each other for support: uninvited we carried each other’s stuff; we looked around to make sure our companions hadn’t been left behind; and we constantly backed each other up. There were several occasions that others carried my bags, and many more where one of our number stayed to help another. For a few precious days we lived in a world without judgment, a world of love and compassion in which everything was beautiful. All came to recognize that this was a journey of trust in which losing a passport, missing a flight, or being late didn’t matter. Rather we were bound together on an adventure that we neither knew nor understood.
Out of this trust we felt community, family, and love. In the smallest sense, this was a formational spirit for our group and contributed significantly to the spirit of open dialog we developed, an environment that allowed us to connect deeply and to grow greatly as individuals. And on a grander scale we had been invited into a far larger family, one so large that the members are scattered around the globe and do not all know each other, but one in which there is absolute trust and confidence. Being a guest of this larger family and a part of the smaller one we formed our the bus reminds me of the importance to life of a love which is ready to trust and surrender. It reminds me of the importance of living with the recognition that all my real needs will be taken care of regardless of how caught up I might get in my daily stories.
I was the guest of a family held together by a universal love for the other, a deep caring for humankind, and a desire and commitment to heal and I realized this is where I belong. I think it is where each of us belongs. And it is a family, a community that becomes immediately available if we decide to move our lives into a place of love and trust.
If you want to read more about this recent trip to Turkey, here are the other articles I have written: