We went in to the shop and quickly found the things we were going to buy, and then paid for them. I wanted ot walk upstairs and get coffee from the coffee shop I had seen plenty of times, but never when it was open. I wandered up there and an Arab teenager made me a macchiato. Another Arab teenager asked me where I was from and what I was doing there. I told him I was from near Dallas. So was he, apparently. Born and raised in Irving, TX, this young Saudi had moved back with his family to the homeland only a year prior. The world in so small it can fit inside a marble.
The coffee shop was crowded. Jeremiah, my work associate, asked why there were so many young dudes hanging in a souvenir-shop's coffee house and we were told there was a Super Smash Brothers tournament on the Wii taking place that night. Of course there was. Why wouldn't this coffee shop in Saudi Arabia be the perfect setting--and these young men the perfect hosts--for a nintendo game tournament?
Sometimes international travel exposes your preconceived notions of people groups. Sometimes it shows you that--no matter how progressive you think you are--you really are a prejudiced and racist son of a gun. And sometimes you play a Smash Brothers tournament in a coffee shop drinking Italian espresso in Saudi Arabia at midnite in Saudi Arabia and nothing on earth makes sense.
The internet has broken down walls wars and "spreading democracy" never could. The internet is the greatest export the West has ever given the world, and is responsible for the spread of culture, communication, information, and the quest for freedom across every continent on earth. We are in a great and magic age of our planet's history as every person on earth is growing more and more connected each day. As this growth happens, we are seeing the growing pains. We are seeing the old ways of doing things continue to rear its ugly head. We are seeing bombs and guns still being thought of as "redemptive" and "peace-making" instead of Love, understanding, and compassion.
The Middle East is in the middle of a rebirth. The more the wars and fires of hate rage on in the region, the more the youth gathered in coffee shops playing video games will demand a different recourse. These kids will see the West in a different way than their grandfathers. They will be able to interact with people and find it hard to hate them.
I got destroyed in the first round of the tournament. I hadn't played that game since college, so I wasn't expecting much out of my entry, but I was demolished in minutes. The guys shook my hand and Jeremiah and I left the shop and risked our lives driving back home. Meanwhile, Israel and Palestine were beginning another round of violence miles away. Hate and ignorance were ruling the region that was once the home of the Son of Man who asked us to "turn the other cheek." The words of the Prince of Peace were muted in the ears of so many that night. I pray we can find compassion, understanding, and love for people who we view as different from ourselves because war and violence are ALWAYS so far removed from the will of Jesus, they aren't even in the same building.
More mario, less war.