John Henry was a straight cut blue-eyed American from the Midwest. He was an accountant who worked for a large financial firm and married his childhood sweetheart Mary, a teacher at the local high school.
They did everything by the books, and John made sure of that. John had the same routine for many years. He would come home from work, take his shoes off, diligently wipe and placed them neatly in a corner. He would remove his favorite gray suit, gently brush with a lint remover, and pack it neatly away. John had the same set of friends since pre-school, ate the same meals, drank the same beer, and was reluctant to try anything new. Every facet of his life was routine, and that's how he liked it. John had a disdain for new things, his favorite saying," if it ain't broke, I ain't trying to fix it."
His wife Mary was the opposite, though she understood her husband, she yearned to try different things, meet new people, and travel outside their small Ohio town one day. John saw traveling outside of his country a waste of time, he thought, I like everything I already cared for and knew all the people I wanted to know. Mary, on the other hand, always wanted to travel. After countless years of begging him to go on a vacation, John finally Said yes. His thoughts were, if he said yes this one time, she would never bother him again. "But where would we go?" asked John. "We should go to Jamaica," Mary said, "it's sunny, warm and beautiful." Mary had remembered her friend saying how lovely the beaches were and how friendly the locals are and dreamt of visiting one day. John himself has never been to the beach before, and so they agreed, and off to Jamaica, they went.
After arriving in Jamaica, they checked into a luxurious all-inclusive resort, the kind of place where you ate all you wanted inside but never got to experience the real culture outside. It was hard for John to try new things, he wouldn't taste this, wouldn't try that. Nothing it seemed was of interest to John. But that was about to change because the hotel band was getting ready to play their set.
The steel drums roared to life, and John heard the most beautiful sound he had ever heard. While the lead singer belted out a near-perfect rendition of the great Harry Belafonte Banana Boat Song, John involuntarily started to move to the beat. At first, he didn't know what he was feeling, but then his legs began doing its own thing. To his wife's surprise, John began to dance as if he was in a trance.
Barry, the bass guitar player, saw what was happening and invited him closer. Barry leaned over and asked, "are you feeling Irie"? John wasn't sure what that meant but felt a little uncomfortable that the stranger was so friendly to him; he felt obligated to return the kindness and Nodded with a yes. Barry, with his broad Jamaican accent, responded, "everything cool den man." After the set, he invited John over for a drink, at first John was hesitant, but for the first time in his life, he tried something that was not beer and not American made. But this was not just any rum but one of Jamaica's best, Appleton Jamaican Rum. After a few sips, he felt his body getting relaxed, loving the feeling he wondered to himself, maybe it's not so bad to try new things after all.
By this time, Mary was worried and came looking for her husband. "John, are you ok?" Mary asked. "Yea mon mi Irie" he replied. Mary almost lost it, she has never seen her husband so mellow, so relaxed before, and to top it off, John now has a Jamaican accent. She wasn't sure what to make of it; she thought he was trying new things and enjoying himself. She leaned over gently and kissed him on the cheek and went back socializing with the other guests.
The most life-changing thing was about to happen to John. Barry invited him to take a stroll with the promise of showing him the real Jamaica, to rub shoulders with the locals. But once through the gate, it suddenly felt like he stepped into the twilight zone. Everything about the locals seemed so laid back and chill, everyone was so happy and welcoming. He realized they didn't care if he was different, all they cared about and kept asking if he was" Irie" (meaning are you ok). It seemed as if the local folks never had a reason to rush anywhere and with the brightest of smiles that seem to say, "don't worry, everything is gonna be alright."
John felt himself relaxing; he found himself letting go of beliefs he had harbored since being a kid, things learned, things he knew now were biased and wrong. The feeling of nothing mattered except right here right now, for the first time in his life, John felt free. He and Barry walked for what seemed like a mile before arriving at Barry's cousins' shop. A little wooden shack with palm leaves for the roof where a group of men sat in a circle, taking turns puffing on a huge bong.
Barry's cousin invited both John and Barry to join the circle and found seats next to the guy with the huge bong. The smell of the aroma had John wondering, was this the reason all Jamaicans always seemed to be happy? He leaned over to Barry and asked, "what is it about this bong Barry that is making everyone so happy?". Barry smiled and said, "this is our culture. John, loving and sharing with everyone no matter where they are from, this is our magic serum." John wondered to himself what could be so magically about smoking a bong. He was next in the circle, so he was about to find out.
Trying hard not to be offensive but being hesitant at first, he took his first puff. He felt nothing and wondered if these people were overselling the powers of this so-called magic bong. But thought to himself, let me take one more colossal puff, and that will be it. He then turned and asked Barry after inhaling and letting out this giant cloud of smoke, one of the largest Barry had ever seen. "What kind of magic does this bong possess, it feels great, but where is the mysticism, John asked. Everyone laughed in unison, and Barry replied: "John, the moment you put that bong to your lips, you created magic." John seemed confused. Barry continued," by sharing this bong; you allowed yourself to become a part of us. You have let go, even if it's only for this moment, any prejudices you may have had in your heart and bonded with us; this moment, you became one of us."
John felt as if the most massive load suddenly came off his shoulder, and he felt as if he was flying without wings. Everything seemed more evident for the first time in his life; John became aware of how magical it felt to be included and was no longer worried about anything. For the first time, he felt free, and from that day forward, John was never the same.
The vacation ended, and as he stood with his wife at the airport, he hugged and told her he wanted to stay. She smiled as if to say, "I understand," they hugged each other for a while longer, and then she asked, "how will you survive?" John smiled and said," look at these Jamaicans; they are always smiling. I have figured out the secret to their constant happiness." Mary looked at her husband with curiosity. Then, he leaned over and whispered, "the secret is, out of many, we are all one people. eat and live well; share the love, laughs, and always repeat."
John ditched his suit for a pair of cargo pants, gave his penny loafers to some poor kid with no shoes, stuck his feet into some flip flops, and donned his "I heart Jam Rock" t-shirt. John grew his hair into a dreadlock, developed the most extreme unbothered attitude, and became the most beloved icon in this small Jamaican seaside village. He became affectionately known as the "Krazee Rasta."
Moral of the story, we don't take ourselves too seriously, and neither should you. We represent all colors. Let's eat and live well, share love, laughs, and repeat.