On Tuesday, my time at school whizzed; by twelve o’ clock, I had pedaled out of a computer lab to my trinket of a car. There was one minute to tumble over a half-emptied cup of coffee, another to push seepage off of its rim. After that, I nosed onto grainy roads away from Kingsville; a day of classes and the town were only specks on the map.
When I left the gray machine, it was for a slab of concrete, laid not long ago. It cost five skips to reach my pastor’s door.
Through the fiberglass, he and his wife shuffled across baggage to let me in. I was welcome in their mess. It’s the kind of clutter that follows any departure; whether a disoriented sock or a bottle of ibuprofen, odds and ends vie to be tucked in last-minute luggage.
With a wave at three suitcases, closed only by willpower, my pastor laughed. “I don’t know where we’re going to put our things yet,” he said, as his wife shook her head and smiled. “Maybe in the carry-ons.”
It would be hard to store an extra phone charger when your allotted baggage is splitting with gifts. It’s even harder to justify toting those bits of America and of home when the presents you’ve crannied are so simple—bandages and flip-flops.
By tomorrow, two of my mentors will be in carried in a plane like a flash over the Atlantic Ocean. It’s one part of a trip eastward to a small spot on the map: Port-au-Prince, Haiti. It’s the heading of a week to serve in an orphanage. English is not the common language; but the husband and wife team count lessons with Silly Putty and days of care to be just as communicative.
Geography is not my strong point. I can point out capitals like midges on an atlas—but still shrug off the reality that they have a place outside of a paperback. I can rattle off a nation’s founder—the face that fills up currency—without remembering its needs. Too often, I find myself recognizing inked-in borders; yet, when chances to serve the people in them crop up, I am inattentive. It’s an attitude that leaves humans as specks on the map.
On Wednesday, two people will cross time zones. As they do, I’ll be stretching the clock to think. Maybe my sprinting minutes should be trained around others’ needs. Maybe some of my own concerns can go in the carry-on.