A wedding. Two unique people become one. A mystery and a marvel. Until recently I’d never attended a January wedding, but starting a new year with a couple committing to share the rest of their lives felt right.
And kind of Disney. Weddings renew hope, reminding us that there is happy-ever-after, not only for the couples, but also for the communities their love creates. Flocked around the lovebirds on an island in the Caribbean were family and friends who’d flown from around the globe to witness, to be…love.
The Magic Kingdom may own ships on which families ride off into the sunset, but they still market their “It’s a Small World” ride as the “Happiest Cruise that Ever Sailed.” I went to Disney World as a kid just after it opened, and, shocker, it was my favourite attraction. Three-hundred papier-mâché dolls traditionally dressed dancing and singing in their native languages a simple song of world peace made my soul sing.
Looking at the guests gathered, I remembered again that it IS a small world. Marcus, the priest who married them and the groom’s lifelong friend, called us The United Nations. They’d gone to high school together when Moises moved from the Dominican Republic to the US, and it turns out Marcus now lives in Louisville, Kentucky, the state in which I was born. In fact, when I met his fiancé at the wedding (they got engaged three days after the wedding at this waterfall) I learned she is from Madisonville, Kentucky –35 miles from Hopkinsville where I grew up.
Maria, the bride, is my coworker. Some of her family and friends flew in from Russia for the celebration. A couple of years ago I’d assisted a coworker, also Russian, in taking student delegates from The American School of Marrakesh to St. Petersburg to the Model United Nations Conference. (I love that in Model UN each student draws a country—not his or her own—to research and represent on global issues. The task is to collaborate with delegates from other countries to find solutions that benefit all.) Of all the European cities I’ve fallen in love with, St. Petersburg is probably the most beautiful–canals like Venice and Amsterdam lined with art, parks, and more palaces than Paris.
Maria was one of the first people I met after moving to the Caribbean. When I needed to see a doctor and couldn’t make an appointment or speak in Spanish to the clinic staff, she went with me and translated. She introduced other coworkers and me to Moises. Gregarious and kind, he took us all to Zona Colonial for salsa and dinner and has grilled for us while on duty and off the best steaks in town. A chef for big destination weddings across the island, he and Maria decided they wanted their day to be relaxed and fun, which it was, with his staff cooking in the kitchen and serving the feast.
Traveling to twenty-five countries on four continents has amazed me with the world’s vastness. Travel provides wide, open spaces for beauty and adventure. And sometimes loneliness. I didn’t speak French or Arabic in Morocco and I barely speak Spanish, but I’ve learned to depend on the kindness, the hospitality, of strangers who become friends.
I am most changed–I think we all are– by the people we meet. Friends I’ve met on the road. People at home I’ve loved all my life. I’m no longer a child, but I still believe it’s a small world. That most of us are more alike than different. That God is love and says we must love one another. That peace happens in our world, our country, our hearts through real relationship. Face-to-face, heart-to-heart encounters with people truly change the world…for good.