We met Arlene, a beautiful smiling woman who lives with her family in a house behind the church her father built when she was a girl. They still worship in that church, where she is part of the worship team. Arlene makes beautiful hand-crafted items using shells she has collected. The shell she gave me is a special treasure in a place of honor on my mantel now.
We met Gloria, a Grammy winner who is passionate about helping Bahamian youth interested in performing arts to excel and reach their full potential. Over an unhurried lunch, we had the opportunity to hear about the many ways she is investing in her community and the lives of the young people there.
We met Chris, a music professor at College of the Bahamas, who was equally at home both performing on a concert hall stage and leading worship in an humble island church. We toured the neighborhood where he was reared, learned about his childhood, and walked on the beach where he caught sardines for breakfast as a boy.
We met The Legend, who, for more than two decades, has brought the biggest names in the music industry to the islands, produced quality recordings, and worked tirelessly while enjoying every minute of it, because he has the enviable gift of seeing his work as play and wrapping it with excellence.
We met Rashad, the smiling student who sang with all his heart while his father was dying, and did it with a smile because he knows his hope is in The Lord.
We met talented students who are overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds to obtain their education and become professional musicians.
We did see the beach, the pools, the palm trees. We did eat seafood. We experienced the island nation of the Bahamas, however, in the people we met and the lives with which we intersected.
It's easy to get confused about what makes a nation, a state, or a town. You see, a nation is not a collection of beaches and trees. It's not the buildings, the businesses, or the infrastructure. A nation is made up of people, and they are its most valuable resource. The trees could be flattened and the sands washed away, yet the essence of the Bahamas would remain as long as the people survived.
We had a wonderful, and somewhat atypical trip, but we saw the Bahamas as few people will do. Why? We saw the Bahamas in its people, and they were so open that we saw their hearts. We are richer for it, and I wouldn't trade this trip for anything.
The only problem now is how we are ever going to be as gracious and welcoming to visitors who come our way as they were to us. All those smiling people... Maybe the best place to start is with a smile. After all, that's how they did it in the Bahamas.