Thursday, March 30, 2006

The More Things Change….

I travel in my work and, although I will sometimes share a meal with colleagues, clients, and friends, I find my most steady companion to be a book. Frankly, sitting to savor a meal and the musings of a Bonhoeffer, Tozer, or Packer is enjoyable. Tonight finds me sitting with Carl Wilson. He is author of “With Christ in the School of Disciple Building”. The book is quite good- a lot of substance and biblical yet practical, too.

There is a restaurant (de Herbergh) in Badhoevedorp that I particularly like when I’m booked in near Schiphol airport. It is cozy. The food is good and the people friendly. As much as I may wish not to overhear the conversations around me, we all are seated too nearby and the voices are simply too loud to block out all but the quietest of dialogues. So, in the midst of my reading I continually hear large pieces of conversations openly shared amongst the patrons.

The table to rear of me seats three people- a man, his spouse, and a friend that likes to tell of his travels to Thailand, homes in Spain, and his closest friend, an affluent attorney, who has six homes abroad and is returning from Asia as he speaks.

To my right is a group of businessmen who joke and laugh and seem to be enjoying each other’s company. Likewise, they glance at each other out of the corners of their eyes as one or two of the men flirt with the young server, a quite attractive young woman, whilst she waits their table and pours their wine.

To my left, two older men, one younger, and one middle aged woman seem joined in a common interest related to engineering and business. The oldest of the lot recounts war stories of projects past and business deals closed to the advantage of the firm. Occasionally, he drifts back to his childhood in Holland and speaks fondly of times past and people that he knew when he was not so long in the tooth.

The French have a saying that roughly translates, “The more things change the more things stay the same”. But what does table talk in the Netherlands have to do with our proverb Francais? For me, it is reminder that people from different parts of the globe, in various stages of life, and assorted contexts of relationships seem to want many of the same things.

They, like the man boasting of travel and homes, want to feel important. The men with the waitress and their jesting want approval and acceptance- to belong and be “in the game”. The grey haired man telling tales from his youth and recounting exploits won wants to feel significant and a part of something larger than just the present and its endeavors. Who knows, maybe there a sense that he is mentoring his younger colleagues and connecting them to those who have come before? I can only speculate but I do know there is emotion at the root of ramblings.

So, here I sit with meal, vino blanco, and a good book surrounded by others who I do not know but with whom I share the longings of significance, acceptance, and an aspiration to transcend the space in time that I occupy today. Has God really placed, “eternity in the hearts of men”? I think so and conversations garnered whilst dinning in a Dutch restaurant – now in business more than 100 years- is a telling reminder that mankind changes, as well we should; however, the French may be right after all. For, in as much as we change much certainly “remains the same”.


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