Friday, March 22, 2013


I’ve just returned from  a few days in Tenerife courtesy of a mate who invited and paid for 100 of his friends to fly out and stay four nights in a hotel, and to celebrate his fiftieth birthday at his luxury villa.

This colourful character had certainly seen some highs and lows along the way before striking gold and making his fortune. This was mirrored by the selection of guests who ranged from wealthy to modest, passive to ‘cross me at your peril’

Significantly I hadn’t seen my friend for nearly twenty years and so it was something of a shock to receive an invite, but as the expression goes: ‘You don’t look a gift horse in the mouth’ and so off we went.

Incidentally, what an odd expression this is! Its meaning relates to the inspection of a horses teeth as this is an indicator of the health and therefore value of a horse. It would indeed be rude to do such a thing to the gift in front of the giver.

Once landed, we were informed that the hotel ‘had a bug’ and we were being moved to apartments in a different part of town. It was no step down in quality and was indeed a treat, offering spacious balconies to admire the bay, bars, gyms, swimming pools etc, and, because the English were coming, a cooked breakfast.

Did I drink my fair share of lager. Again, you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

Sadly, there is one thing that money cannot buy, and although the party was great, the company entertaining and the lager cold, one by one we all fell victim to the bug. For anyone of a delicate disposition I will not describe the symptoms, but needless to say, one couldn’t stray too far from your room.

And so, here I sit, having just eaten for the first time in 60 hours. Unsure now whether the pain in my stomach are hunger pangs or a continual evidence of the unwelcome guest in my intestines.

Three years ago I visited Haiti, a full ten months after the earthquake devastated the capital Port au Prince and claimed the lives of an estimated 220,000 people and injured a further 300,000. In addition, a further 216,000 were infected with cholera. We left a week before the outbreak, and were later emailed by a doctor who told us that many of the people we had met were now victims of the disease and no more.

It remains a profound memory which will stay with me for the rest of my life, and one which cannot be allowed to not alter the way I think, speak, behave in this world for it taught me the meaning of privilege.

But there is wealth in Haiti for the chosen few.

Take a look at this photo. This good looking chap has his back to the presidential palace. Perhaps the most ostentatious building on the island? And yet, like my friend in Tenerife, has found that no amount of money can completely protect from the forces of nature or malady.

It never hurts to be reminded of our frailty. I love the parable of the rich fool which can easily be misconstrued as God being a killjoy and resenting success:

And he told them this parable: The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain.  And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”   But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

There’s nothing wrong with success, or wealth, but accumulation can’t be the only reason we are here? Surely there has to be more? We need to have a purpose in life. Don't we? Obviously I have a sense of purpose as a Christian, which gives me a sense of direction, but purpose is something we all should have isn’t it?

There is enough want, need, injustice, sadness, sorrow, pain, ill health, disaster for us to find something to want to change. We don’t have to travel to the other side of the world to make a difference (though some may be called to) as long as we have something! What's your purpose?

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