Maps are Magical
A young man rang my doorbell today. He had on a backpack and was carrying a brightly decorated box. Hm. Who is this guy? I was thinking. I was used to having all kinds of artists from all kinds of places knock on my door, hold out a small, laminated sign with 'I am an artist. I don't speak German. Can you help me by buying one of my paintings?' I admit, I was impatient and a bit suspicious. He said something like 'I am X. I speaking no German,' and then, gratefully, 'Do you speak English?' I nodded, feeling more enthusiastic now. He told me that he and about eight other people were travelling around Europe for a year trying to understand something of the different cultures, languages, people, etc. Hm. I thought. I was still suspicious and waiting to see what the catch was and what, pray tell, was in that little colored box?
'Are you with some organization?' I glared. 'No. Not really. We're just a bunch of young people trying to learn about other cultures. I am half Japanese and half Italian and I live in London.' Ok, I thought. Now we are getting somewhere. Even though he was sweet and probably a totally decent kid, I didn't quite feel comfortable enough to ask him in, so we sat outside on the stairs and talked. I told him about Switzerland, the Swiss, and realized that I could have talked for hours. He smiled and laughed a lot. He told me that they had just come from Albania where things were a little less luxurious. 'How do you decide where to go?' I was pretty curious now. 'We just take out a map and point to a place and go.' Wow. Cool. There you have it. A group of kids around 20, pointing at a map and going where their fingers land. I always thought maps were magical and had a way of opening up the horizon.
He told me he had to meet his friends at 13:15 and pulled out a tiny, little square of a map of the town I live in. It was really a tiny, little square. Must have been his 'territory for meeting people' for the day. He showed me where he had to meet his friends and I told him that if he didn't mind, I'd walk along with him and meet them myself. 'Sure!'
'Before we leave, I do need to know what is in that box.' 'Oh that!' he opened the box and there was a beautiful assortment of hand-painted Easter eggs - wooden ones, plastic ones, chicken ones. 'This is how we are financing the trip until after Easter. Do you want one?' I have to admit, I was tempted to hug him and take the whole box, but bought two pretty blue chicken ones instead.
We took the little, tiny map square and walked to the place where his friends were waiting. I showed him where we were on the map. His friends were where they said they'd be, calling 'You're late!' 'Sorry. I met someone. I want to introduce you!' So I met his friends, shook their hands, told them that I thought what they were doing was really cool and wished them happy trails.
As I turned around and started to walk back home I quietly wished them much luck and hoped that their maps would lead them to wonderful places where they would meet kind and interesting people.