Saturday, January 02, 2016

Jan. 2, 2016, column:
Pray to be less selfish
By Mike Haynes
            I know it’s na├»ve, but starting a new year, my prayer is that we would be a little less selfish and a little more forgiving of the things other people do that we don’t like. And as simplistic as it sounds, how about trying to find ways to achieve that peace on Earth and good will toward men?
            We can start by seeing people as individuals instead of as stereotypes. Traditional barriers do not have to keep us apart.
            Take sports. How many times have you seen black and white athletes hugging each other, laughing together, consoling each other? The intimacy between ethnic groups may lessen sometimes when they leave the locker room after the game, but those team-oriented moments tell us there is potential for lasting trust.
Kathy Haynes at Strokkur geyser in Iceland
            Residents of small-town Texas tend to be wary of fast-talking, big-city people. Catholics and Protestants sometimes hesitate to fully accept each other. From a distance, we’re wary of people who are different. One remedy is familiarity.
            In December, Kathy and I flew 4,100 miles to Reykjavik, Iceland, hoping to see the Northern Lights. It had been on Kathy’s bucket list for a long time, we found a discounted rate, so we joined a group for three nights in freezing weather in the North Atlantic.
            It was cloudy the whole time. No Aurora Borealis for us. But we saw a waterfall, a geyser that erupts every five minutes and the culture of Iceland.
            Plus, we met people. Three nights isn’t time to really get to know anyone, but our small group included fellow adventurers from California, Houston, Chicago, New York and New Jersey.
            Two young nurses from New Jersey were on the tour, one black and one white. They were friendly, and Kathy and I worried about them when we thought they might miss our tour bus.
            After we had witnessed the Strokkur geyser shooting 30 yards into the air a couple of times, I was walking toward our tour bus when I slipped on a layer of ice. Boom, I hit the ground but managed to keep my camera and limbs intact.
            The two nurses were at my side immediately, pulling me up. I made jokes to lessen the embarrassment, and they laughed more with me than at me.
            I still barely know those girls, but I now have a soft spot for two New Jersey nurses.
            On the way home, our flight from Dallas to Amarillo was canceled without warning, resulting in a five-hour delay on Dec. 23. A woman trying to get back to her family by Christmas Eve didn’t know what to do. But when we all had the option of flying to Lubbock, a couple from College Station offered her a car ride for the last 110 miles to Amarillo.
            Such instances of camaraderie usually are short-lived, I realize. But the key is everyone having a single focus. Football players work together for the sake of the team. People in tour groups have similar interests. Travelers sometimes have a common purpose, which may be sharing information on how to get home.
            For me, the ultimate purpose is the Good News that Christianity offers. Those who follow Jesus have a built-in team – or tour group – and a common goal, which is offering that Good News to others.
            Christians are human, so unfortunately, we allow ourselves to be divided. But that isn’t the plan. Jesus prayed, “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name … so that they may be one as we are one.” (John 17:11)
            I believe if allowed to grow, the Christian message can bring all groups together. The forgiving response of the survivors of the Charleston, S.C., church shooting is a prime example of healing that comes with true faith.
            Clouds covered up the Northern Lights while we were in Iceland. But the New Jersey nurses stayed one more night, and they let us know by email that they got to see the colorful display in the sky.
            If we couldn’t see the lights, I’m glad those Jersey girls did.