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Wheel. Of. Fortune. (Crowd cheers)
May 6, 2017

Within my first week in American Samoa, two separate moments came together in a lovely reminder of why I wander the pathways I do.  

Late one night, here in American Samoa, I watched Wheel of Fortune and the crowd went wild over the prize of a Hawaiian vacation.  It struck me as a bit odd and kind of ridiculous in a way, me in Samoa watching that on TV.  I actually giggled.  Then I thought, 'I win that prize every day.'  Quite truthfully, as most who know me are aware, I am regularly handed opportunities to travel to tropic zones, oft living beachside, enjoying the daily sunshine and refreshing rains and benefitting from the generous spirit of this part of the world.  

Which leads directly to my second moment.  A small group of high school teachers and students arrived soon after my TV moment, to visit the same organization (Intersections) I am working with and to create a mural on the wall of a local Samoan high school.  On their first morning, the Intersections staff staged a customary greeting for the high school group, to offer them a sense of culture and custom.  I was invited to enjoy the proceedings.  However, as the event began, I was not seated in the honored visitors section, rather the Intersections leaders escorted me to sit with them, in the traditional ‘leaders’ seats.  A lovely little ceremony unfolded, with speeches and introductions conducted in Samoan, accompanied by presentation of ‘awa in coconut bowls.  Each leader, on the visitor side and ‘our’ side, individually were presented a bowl to offer a brief speech and take a ritual drink of the ‘awa.  We then went off to have a barbeque. Beachside. By an amazing rock that towered over us, jutting straight up out of the sand.

Note, please, that I write not to inspire jealousy. 

Rather, the slightly wonky Wheel of Fortune moment played out against the invitation to join the ‘local family’ side of the welcome ceremony, helped me put back into perspective the important why of doing what I do, after barely escaping some frustrations from back home and immediately facing a few new ones here.

“I win that prize every day.’  Not the TV dream of hot stone massages in fancy hotels decorated to imitate the atmosphere that is naturally available just past the high end stores and air-conditioned restaurants, rather the interactions with people who embrace you for just being. Who value you for your spirit. Who celebrate your desire to share moments with them. And who occasionally frustrate you because they live as intensely as you.

 Although I do occasionally remember to enjoy the atmospheric perfections of the Pacific, my Wheel of Fortune Hawaiian vacation is deeply rooted in the joys and wonder of human wonder and joy.