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Monday, July 2, 2012


PART TWO:  Continuing my thoughts of life lessons learned in a somewhat unusual manner, I share the lessons I have learned from the other countries where Jim and I have been privileged to live.
Thomas Paine, author of "Common Sense", was born in
the part of England where we lived.

We only had one year in England, but we have had many years of friendship with English citizens, and this lesson is prime material in the English soul.  Their sense of propriety and respect for the lessons of history (even for events that didn't turn out as well as they hoped), has given me an appreciation for the importance of priorities in my life, and the impact of my actions on others.  Whether it was choosing to go to the village’s public soccer field to play rather than in the street, or being willing to drive slowly down a narrow road behind a tractor-towed cart full of carrots for some farmer’s horses to feed on during the winter, or being able to watch Siberian swans as they wintered in the wetlands where we lived, or being able to learn the English stories from English citizens (and true, we did get a slightly different story when we visited Scotland – think New Jersey and New York!),  we learned that all things have their place in our lives, all things have a purpose in our lives.  

The WWII American Cemetery at Margraten, honored
and preserved by the Netherlanders
The people of the Netherlands are totally pragmatic (and please don’t call them Dutch).  Perhaps it has something to do with being a nation of only 17 million people.  Or perhaps it has something to do with half of their country being below sea level – the Low Countries is what their country’s name really means.  But in any case, the time we spent there taught me to stop wishing for a fairy godmother and get to work to find a way to succeed in whatever task I undertook.  We had friends there 25 years ago who had problems finding work, but that didn’t keep them from working.  Husband Ren√© would find odd jobs here and there, and do them extremely well, and wife Donna would take housekeeping jobs, waitressing jobs, and others, in order to feed themselves and their children.  Another friend had been a child in a Japanese POW camp during WWII in what was then Dutch Indonesia, and she had a trembling right arm due to the terrifying experiences she had endured there, but she raised a family and served faithfully in church, never complaining of her past.  She found a workable solution.

Seven years in Korea helped me understand even more how much our Heavenly Father loves all his children, and how much I have to learn from them.  The women in Korea are the most gracious, most understanding women I have ever met.  (And the most beautiful.)  They accept their lot, enduring hardship and suffering, and persevere – they work harder than any group of women I know of.  They love beauty, and beautiful things, and they have their values right.  While I was there, I was told that Koreans value two professions more than any other; the warrior and the teacher.  The warrior (the soldier) protects the present.  And the teacher protects the future.  I was honored for being a teacher, and protecting Korea’s future, by shaping, guarding, and creating understanding in the next generation.

Italians, especially those who live in and around Naples, are famous for their zest for life.  But hey, you’d enjoy every single day too, living in the shadow of a volcano that is about 20 years overdue for a significant eruption.  Our neighbors used to call us out onto our veranda to watch the “Michaelangelo sunsets”  - and the sky did look like a master artist had created it.  Nobody does a nativity scene like the Neopolitans – models where the humans are only a couple of inches tall could fill a room.  Their music, their love of the free beauties of life, their enthusiasm for thousands of years of history – every day was an exercise in appreciation.  And when a car broke down on the highway, it wasn’t ten minutes before someone (and often several someones) had stopped to help – because the next day it could be them on the side of the road.  When I was in an accident, a family ran out to me, got me safely out of the car, took me inside their home, gave me a drink, and helped me contact the military police – all without me being able to speak Italian or them being able to speak English.  For all their challenges, political, economic and moral – the people of Naples hold a special place in my heart, because of the way they flavor their passion for life with compassionate service.

These people spent hours on a Saturday pulling up about
a thousand two-foot long yams at a church farm, then donated
300 of them to this noblewoman's family, in gratitude for
the chance to work her land.
I haven’t figured out all the lessons I will learn from the Tongan people, but I know one: that it is better to live simply and express gratitude for the blessings I have, than to waste time wishing I had a different life.  Rather than comparing their poverty with the relative affluence of the developed world, the Tongans I have met simply want to share whatever they have, and express gratitude for that opportunity.  “A Tongan’s mountains are in his heart,” says the proverb, meaning that though the land is flat, the mountains climbed by Tongans, and the victories won, are ones of character, ones of inner challenge, ones which shape the spirit and soul of these people.  May I live to cross mountains of the heart.  May I live to reach the summits of opportunities that will mold me into the kind of courageous, thankful and selfless people I have surrounding me during this time.


  1. In reading about the people you have met and what you have learned from them in the places they live, I would say you have encountered Jesus in many places, disguised in many ways, and served Him many times. And you have also been served, by these good people. This is truly what must be meant by loving our brothers--and sisters. What a lesson! Worth these tears in my eyes. Thanks, Bea.

    1. Yes, Angi, I have learned two great lessons from living in so many places: 1. Heavenly Father loves ALL his children, and each of them has something to teach me; and 2. I am incredibly blessed to have the life I have.