I met them three years ago. Cristi and Miruna. They run our office in Bucharest. We had dinner together in Barcelona. I visited them in Romania. Now, they are with me in the States. They spent the week in Cincinnati and, today, we took a road trip to Nashville.
I liked them when I first met them. Cristi is full of life and ideas. Miruna, his wife, is all brains and heart. When I visited them in Romania, I witnessed their love story, the way they are together, straight out of “Love Actually.” It’s easy to love them. It’s easy to be inspired by them.
They came to the States at the last minute – an invite from someone I work with and admire. They came with an open mind and an open heart. After a week of meetings in Cincinnati, we decided to take them on a road trip. Down the highway to Nashville. An American experience. We’ve just arrived, having stopped along the way at a Cracker Barrel and a truck stop. They seemed to love it. They seemed enthralled by the experience.
I travel a lot. Around the country. Around the world. In the last 24 months, I’ve had my passport stamped on four continents and passed through security in at least a dozen states. It can be overwhelming. I’m blessed, to be sure, but still, it can be a lot. And every time I go someplace new, every time I cross into another country, it’s like a new beginning. I still have my home, my wife, my kids, but in every new place, I make new friends.
What’s strange is when those people you know from other places show up in your world. It’s very much like when I was in high school and I auditioned for an all-American jazz band. I made the band as a trumpet player and, the summer between my sophomore and junior year, I spent a month touring through Europe. OJ was on the run that summer, when I was in Brussels. He was in the white Bronco while I was trying to understand the difference between Flemish and French. Later that year, our European fixer and her boyfriend came to visit Cleveland. I drove them around. I took them to the Cleveland Museum of Art and showed them the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame. These people, who I knew from a tour bus and cities and concerts across the pond were suddenly staying in my sister’s bedroom and eating at my dinner table.
And now, so many years later, I shared a car ride with the greatest hosts I’ve ever met, the couple that reminded me what real love looked like and the people who introduced me to a world I had never considered. Cristi and Miruna. The Romanians. Here in the US of A. Here, with me on a road trip to Nashville. It all seemed so surreal.
I’m lucky. I know that. Perhaps today more than any other day I am keenly aware of just how lucky I am to travel the world and meet new friends; to look at my Facebook list and see flags from England and France, Romania and Germany, Japan, China, Brazil, New Zealand and Singapore. I am not a world traveler. I am a citizen of a global community – of good people with good hearts, people I am blessed to call my friends.
We’re in our hotel now. Everyone is getting ready to head out on the town. I hope to show them Nashville and country music, to take them to places to hear music and buy bolo ties. I hope that, on my best day, I can show them some small return on their investment of kindness that they have made in me. It’s the least I can do. The most I can hope to do. I hope to show them how much I appreciate them, their friendship and their love. I hope I can pay them back, in some small way, for the impact they have made on my life.
Welcome to Nashville, Cristi and Miruna. Welcome to my world. I am truly glad you’re here.