All posts by Lanita Boyd

High Stakes Dominoes

I’ve learned the past few weeks in Natal how much the role of curiosity plays in what we pay attention to. Almost every morning, very early, I sit on our third floor balcony overlooking a busy city street with a median between the lanes of traffic. The median includes palm trees, much trash, old abandoned tires, and a small amount of space that is a tiny park with seats embedded in the concrete floor.

What draws my attention to the middle section of the street is an elderly man who comes to the same spot on the median and stands observing traffic and people.

He follows the same pattern each day. He will cross the street to his spot in the park-like area of the median, stand, and turn completely around to observe the people and the traffic. He looks down at the ground and searches for a weed to pull, pitches it away from his space, rubs his hands together, and sits on the same stool with one foot on the seat of a nearby stool, and watches. He wears flip-flops, a net tank top, and short pants. The clothes always match colors and his hair is carefully combed.

After he finishes these rituals, he will greet anyone who comes near his spot.

The gentleman usually stays an hour and then leaves—probably to go home for breakfast.

Most days I will see him a little later from our building with 4-5 other “retirees” sitting on the stools playing dominoes. The many cars and motorcycles that pass by on each side do not distract them. About noon they disperse and the same routine is repeated most days.

Since I do not speak Portuguese, I can only speculate on their conversation. Do they discuss the rainy season, the amount of traffic, complain about the government? And how about the dominoes game? Do they lay money on the table and the winner gets the pot? Or is this a game just to while the time away?

I can’t resist watching each morning the rituals that unfold and the discussion over dominoes that ensues. I’m simply curious and that alone keeps my attention. Dominoes anyone? What kinds of things are you curious about? What holds your attention?

A Promise Not to Complain

My wife says I constantly complain about the orange barrels and traffic cones when driving the streets and highways in the Cincinnati area. But I promise not to complain again.

I have only been a passenger in cars, not a driver, since I arrived in Natal, Brazil, three weeks ago. As a result I have spent a lot of time watching traffic flow and all that goes with it. As I am told often, “This is just the Brazilian way.”

Let me explain. There is no speed lane on the highways; all lanes are speed lanes! Cars dart in and out of traffic at will. Motorcycles weave in and out of traffic stopped at traffic lights. They also pass cars on the curb side.

Donkey & cart

In addition to bicycles, men and women pushing wheelbarrows are on the busy highways as they look through trash left on the medians of many streets. Occasionally, a donkey and cart whose driver is also picking from the trash ambles down the street. When they spot something they want, they stop in the lane of traffic and put the item in their cart or wheelbarrow. Cars maneuver around these and seem to think nothing about it.

Speed limit signs are posted haphazardly on city streets so you are not sure how fast to go in some areas. Not only are speed limit signs rare, but often intersections have no stop signs. So drivers ease into the intersection and hope for the best.

When there is a hard rain, streets flood quickly and a car can easily get stuck unless the driver is very careful.

Traffic weaves around large potholes and even then it is hard to avoid a particularly rough spot in the road.

What impresses me most is that no one seems to complain like I do about roads in the United States. They simply shrug their shoulders and say, “This is the Brazilian way.” I hope I can keep my promise that I will never complain again about the highways in the United States. If I forget, I’m sure my wife will remind me.

Do You Believe in Reincarnation?

Readers are unpredictable. In the middle of our lesson yesterday, Alex asked, without introduction, “Steve, do you believe in reincarnation?”

I was stunned. We had been talking about the temptation of Jesus, and I tried to think of how his question related to our lesson. It didn’t. I stumbled in getting out the words, “No, I do not believe in reincarnation.” I decided to go with the abrupt change in topic and asked him, “Do you believe in reincarnation?”

His answer? “Yes.”

He then proceeded to say that he believes in Spiritism and gave me a brief explanation of his religion. Alex mentioned, for example, that if a person is born with some impairment or is subject to some tragedy in life, he is paying for his sins in a previous life. If a rich man in this life is selfish and does not share his good fortune with others or treats others badly, in the next life he will be poor and will suffer many losses. In each life, you evolve and your goal is to be more and more like God.

They use the same Bible and will read from it at their gatherings (not called worship services). They meet regularly at centers. He said the room is not that much different from our buildings but they don’t have music and preaching.

I left that session overwhelmed. Here is a young man who is very goal-oriented, intelligent, and a delight to be around. Yet his religion is so different from mine! I had a hard time connecting him with his approach to life. I try to respect everyone’s philosophy of life; I have to admit that this conversation broadened my knowledge of how different other people’s spiritual outlooks can be.

However, I plan to go to our next session tomorrow with faith that God can work in his life to see the truth. I want him to understand that Jesus is the Son of God, that heaven and hell are real, and that Jesus wants us to follow him. I believe that God can work through me–and others–to help this young man know Jesus Christ.

We will continue to read stories from Luke and make applications to our lives. I hope he will see me as an illustration of how the Scriptures can change us to be more like Jesus every day—for this life and life eternal.