"It's one thing to realize what your life is worth to you, it is another thing entirely to realize how little it is worth to someone else."
I met a man today, I'll call him M. This is quite a humble name for a man who quickly became someone in whom I have the highest respect, but it will have to do. I was introduced to M. by a very nice woman named F., who is one of the academic advisers here at the OPUS program. I had mentioned to her that I was going into medicine and she was kind enough to give me the email address of a friend of hers, which would eventually bring me out of the comforts of rural Oxford to the bustling city of London one Wednesday afternoon. I was to meet M. at Picadilly Circus around 2 in the afternoon, so I caught the train over from Oxford. I arrived in Picadilly a little after 1:30 so I grabbed a coffee and waited to hear from M. A short while later I got a text message:
"1420 at the Blue Posts Pub on Rupert Street. I'll be the bloke with the blue jacket and all the luggage."
I killed some time a bit of time and headed over to the pub to grab us a table, after all it was shortly after lunch time and I didn't know how crowded the pub was going to be.
Looking back, part of me is sorry that I went early, it wasn't until later on that I realized what I had interrupted when I got there.
When I walked in the pub I saw a youngish looking man with a blue windbreaker casually strewn over a suitcase, but he wasn't alone like I was expecting. I stood awkwardly for a couple seconds before the man with the blue jacket noticed me and said, "Ach, you must be Wezz." (English people always pronounce my name wish a 'z' at the end instead of an 's')
"Yes that's me"
"This is K." he said, introducing the man sitting across from him at the table.
As it turned out, K. was an old friend of M.'s from their college days at Cambridge. Whereas M. was a slightly more reserved individual, K. was animated and eager to chat about just about anything, we talked about Baseball, virology, American Football, the different meanings of the word "sorry" for English people, all sorts of things. He isn't exactly what I would expect to be the stereotypical collected and seller of antique books, but it takes all kinds I guess. K. apologized for interrupting our meeting and said that he would be heading back to work in a bit. He knew that I was meeting M. to talk about the trip he was about to leave for.
"I'm just here to say goodbye", he said.
It turned out to be a much different goodbye than I was expecting. The English tend to be very reserved, as I'm sure you've heard, especially in public places. That's why when K. got up to leave-I stood and shook his hand- I was surprised when he turned to M. and gave him the biggest hug I've seen my entire time in England so far. It wouldn't seem out of place by APU standards, but here it was, and that's when I realized what sort of a goodbye this was. It wasn't like when I said goodbye to all my friends when I left APU back in December. When I overheard M. say, half-jokingly, "It's alright, only a couple of murders and abductions this month." I knew that I was watching two close friends saying goodbye, possibly for the last time.
M. went on to tell me of the dangers of what he was about to do.
"Sometimes terrorists just want to make a point."
Sometimes the point that they want to make is that no one, even aid workers, are welcome in their country.
I asked him how he could handle that emotionally,
"You just don't think about it until you have to", he said.
There are two things that I'm worried about as I tell this story, one is that M. will find this and be incredibly embarrassed that I am writing about him. The other is that you will get a romanticized view of what his life is like. It's understandable, after all most of the violence we see on t.v. isn't very realistic, its either romanticized or over dramatized. This however is very real.
It's one thing to hear that sometimes guards have to be bribed to get into a country safely, its quite another to see the money that's meant to do it.
It's one thing to hear about only three of the bodies of abducted aid workers being found, it is quite another to realize the body of the man you are having dinner with might never be found.
It's one thing to hear that terrorists are targeting foreigners in some countries, it is quite another to look at one of their future targets.
I am not telling this story because I want to make people feel guilty for not going and risking their lives to do what they think is right, our individual callings are much more complicated that I could deal with here. I'm telling this story because I want to remember and I hope you will too, that there are people who are taking risks right now. Not the kind of risks you read about in stories where you somehow know that everything is going to be ok. I'm talking about the other kind of risks. The kind of risk where you have a sneaking suspicion that things won't turn out ok. Yet, in spite of having no illusions about the danger of what they are about to do, some people risk it all anyways. Please pray for those people.