I watched a documentary recently about the preparations that are being made to send people to Mars within the next decade. There is actually a girl that is now 18 years old, but who has been training and preparing to go Mars since the age of 13. I often use her as a case in point in my highschool classes when challenging my students to have goals in life.
Going to Mars takes preparation and training. Since Mars has less mass than Earth, the surface gravity on Mars is less than the surface gravity on Earth. The surface gravity on Mars is only about 38% of the surface gravity on Earth, so if you weigh 100 pounds on Earth, you would weigh only 38 pounds on Mars. As such the potential astronauts have get used to that type of gravity. They also need to feel comfortable in their space suits and how to operate all the systems in their shuttle.
Astronauts need to get physically but also mentally prepared. In that documentary, the potential space pioneers were talking about their initial emotional and psychological training. This training consisted in, as much as possible, recreating the same lifestyle conditions they would face were they on Mars. They had to learn to live with other people in crowded quarters with maybe very little privacy, and unable to go outside. They needed to get used to a 20 minutes delay in communications with the outside world.
All this is very challenging, but when asked what was the most needed in order to get through that intense preparation, one of the gal astronauts answered, "You need to have a thick skin, a long fuse, and a positive attitude!" Isn't that true of everything! I would even add, "And a good sense of humour!"
I was having a discussion with some friends about the virtue of giving in to stop an argument. I feel many friendships and even marriages would sustain less damage or even breakups if, instead of trying to win using physical force or the power of argument, we were to use the strength and power in the virtue of giving in.
Then someone asks me, “But aren’t you then incurring the risk of getting picked on all the time? Aren’t you then enabling people to push you around? Are we to be floor mats?
I thought about it. Whereas it seems that this could truly happen, there is a difference between the person who gives in out of cowardice, indifference, or timidness, and he who gives in because of a greater strength; a strength that doesn't indulge in imposing its will on the other through reasoning or force just because it can; a strength that prioritises winning over the opponent rather than merely winning the argument or the combat.
We command courage of a rare sort when we do not summon our physical strength or power of debate when we could. This is something that we see Jesus do in the Bible. If we win the fight or the argument at the price of losing the relationship, what have we won then?
I heard someone who taught about the use of guns one time say, “Real maturity with a gun is to know when not to use it!” I think it is the same with our ability to win.
There is a time when winning is actually losing and losing is actually winning. Wisdom is to know how to recognize these times.
As you already know, I have extensively traveled. I was born in France where I had many American friends during my teenage years. I remember that these Americans found that France a little archaic to their taste. Then, my wife and I took our children and went to live in SE Asia. Whether it was in the Philippines, India, Bangladesh or Thailand, France still seemed a lot more advanced that these countries.
When I arrived in the US in 1995 I heard so many people complaining about this and that. The wait for the transport was too long. The food wasn’t exactly as they had ordered. The line was too long. The seats were uncomfortable. There was not enough ice in the drink. After coming from developing countries, it was hard to understand the complaints of these people. How could they?
In my interpreting job I often have to interpret for refugees or people who come developing Asian or African countries. Lately, I was interpreting for an Algerian lady who was coming in for cataract surgery. She was commenting to me how in the hospital, nurses always came to ask her if she was hot, cold, thirsty, comfortable? They brought her blankets and pillows so she would feel at ease. The doctor always made sure she knew what he was doing, all things that we here are very used to and even take for granted. At one point the lady looked at me and said, "This is so nice; I'm totally pampered . I'm really not used to that." In the end, she felt it was too much and told the doctor to just do what he needed to do; that he didn’t have to ask her.
Today I also interpreted for an Israeli woman. When we talked she complained, "This is crazy what they do here. We're not used to all this fuss!”
These two foreigners had a different complaint. Their complaint was not about what was wrong with things, but rather about how good they were taken care of. As a person, a company, or a country, if all people can find to complain about us is how well we care for them, it’s a good thing.
I do French interpretation for a language company. I get sent to all kinds of places. Sometimes I even have to do intepreration in an operating room for people under partial anesthesia.
Recently I was sent to a clinic where there are many patients from the LGBTQ community who come for sexual related treatment. I have seen much in my life but this is not the type of place I am accustomed to. I had to keep my professionalism as an interpreter while translating very intimate, embarrassing, and even strange back and forth conversation between patient and doctor.
As I arrived, I felt my client was a little uncomfortable. I made small talk as I would with anyone else. I used the formal way of talking in French which showed respect. Little by little, my client relaxed and realised that I was not there to judge, but just a translator as I would for anyone else. We talked about each other’s lives and family. As I talked, I saw in my client a little melancholy when faced with someone who had what could be called a normal life with a family and children. Then it was time to see the doctor.
The doctor asked many intimate questions. I could see my client, who didn’t seem to be the prudish type, feel a little embarrassed in front me. It was almost liked he/she had tried to make a good impression for me and now was being exposed. Then something happened. As he/she lifted his/her sleeve for a blood draw, I saw a tattoo on his/her arm. The tattoo said, “Only God can judge me!” It is then that my heart broke for that person. Here I had in front of me someone in an alternative lifestyle judged by many. It felt like he/she was so confused that he/she didn’t know anymore his/her true identity.
I have met many lost people in my life and whenever I do, I always wonder how they got there. What brings people to where they are? What pain, what trouble, what disturbance brings us to our present state? I don’t know.
I always remember what Jeremiah the prophet said about Israel in sin, “They did not know how to blush.” (Jer 6:13-15), and I was touched by the embarrassment of my client. There is a certain acknowledgement of wrongdoing in shameful blush, or even just feeling embarrassed or uncomfortable.
When I saw that tattoo, I felt that somehow that person still staked a claim with God as his/her ultimate Judge, which is more than many mainstream people would do. He/she had faith that there is One that he/she can come to, a Judge of all humanity who will not by the seeing of the eyes or by the hearing of the ears, but judges righteous judgments. (isaiah 11:1-4)
Call me naive always trying to find the good in people, but when I come before the Maker who has ultimate compassion on my poor wretched self, I would rather be accused of that than of uncompassionate judgment.
I sometimes enroll the help of beta readers for these articles, (you know, those who can read ‘betta’ than me!) One of them commented, “It is difficult to judge someone separately from his lifestyle. I then responded with the remark of another one of my beta reader, “You do it by looking at the heart of the person, without the distraction of the outward appearances!”
Patrick G. Lumbroso
If you appreciate these articles, support their upcoming publication in a book called, "REFLECTIONS OF A FIRE CHAPLAIN"