On my flight from Brussels to Entebbe, Uganda I had Santa sitting behind me and across the aisle from me was a college-aged kid with ‘Hello, Sailor’ tattooed on his leg. The kid with the tat is Ryan. Ryan has a mother who worries and is going to use up of all 50 of the monthly international texts he purchased in the span of a few days.
In the Fall Ryan’s entering med school to study pediatrics, oncology or global health issues. He’s not sure if he’s got the chops to be a global heath doctor and so he’s doing a little bit of a test run this summer working in Southern Uganda to help establish better malaria protocols and treatment options.
As it turns out that his cheeky ‘Hello, Sailor’ tattoo is a tribute to his family’s long lineage in the Navy and that tattoo is for his sister who is currently deployed.
Ryan has another tattoo on the underside of his wrist. It’s a small lotus, the symbol of finding beauty in unexpected places.
I wish I could text Ryan’s mom and tell her not to worry. She can worry about his time in Uganda all she wants because that’s definitely a legitimate worry, but I wish I could tell her not to worry about Ryan in general because she has a son who wants to make the world a better place. She has a son who looks for beauty in unexpected places like malaria-infested Uganda.
I think Ryan’s right, beauty often lies in unexpected places. For me that unexpected place was across the plane aisle in the eyes of a kid eager to see the world and to find a way to make it better.