Years ago, I was traveling with my husband and an old Army buddy in Prague when a man approached me asking for directions. I tried to help with my map, at least get him headed in the right direction. My husband and his friend laughed afterwards at the way they both braced themselves, watching for a pick pocket maneuver or such.
In Antwerp when I went to get my Congolese Visa, a man approached me at the parking meter. I’d forgotten that I was in Belgium rather than the Netherlands and wasn’t sure my bank card would even work at the meter. The meter took change though, and I was relieved to get my parking pass. There was a printed pass already in there, though, which was very odd. Why would someone pay and leave the ticket? Then the man was asking me how to do the meter, and I figured he’d tried previously and not put in enough money.
Showing him I kept thinking of my husband who says “Be careful” and “Be safe.” What can I do when someone asks for help? If it is in my power to give, shouldn’t I give? I am reminded of the Bible verse that says, “Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:42). It is understandable that my husband worries as he stays home with our children and lets me go into the unknown.
He knows that in a sea of strange faces in the Ethiopian airport, of course the older gentleman looking for directions will approach my seat where I watch the arrivals for Jaime.
I respond, “Poco.”
“Poco,” he says and then asks where the toilettes are. This is a word I understand in at least 7 languages. In Addis these are located at both ends of the terminal. So I point and say, “Sempre dritto.”
He repeats, “Sempre dritto,” with only a little hesitation before heading toward the end. Sempre dritto means straight ahead, but it is also a joke in some Italian tourist sights that no matter where the visitors ask to go you always answer, “Sempre dritto.” I think this gentleman knows the joke.
For me, I go southeast to Rwanda, to turn west to Congo and that is the path that is “Sempre dritto.” Straight ahead on Christmas Eve.
Kristin King is an author, publisher and president of the non-profit Future Hope Africa. She is spending the 12 Days of Christmas visiting the mission in the Congo.