Thursday, March 13, 2014

The People You Meet

Last Saturday, before Mass started at the Church of St. Francis of Assisi in Jebel Ali, Dubai, the priest announced that there was a special visitor in attendance. I thought it likely going to be a religious person of local or regional renown. So I was surprised when the priest revealed that the special guest was none other than the first president of Poland in the post-communist era Lech Walesa.

Wow. Alongside the likes of Reagan, Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II he was one of heroes of freedom who helped win the Cold War. And here he was in church sitting ten rows in front of me. I watched the gray hairs on the back of his head throughout the mass and saw him receive communion. I kept thinking to myself “that’s Lech Walesa, right there” as if I couldn’t believe it was really him.

When the mass ended, I decided to stick around and see what happened. I didn’t know if Mr. Walesa would make a speedy exit or if there might be an opportunity to approach him. I didn’t really know what I would say or do if given that chance, but thought I’d at least give it a shot.

He had been seated in the first row and as he made his way toward the exit, he paused to allow fellow church goers to shake his hand and take pictures. I snapped this shot as he approached me.

Yes, it's blurry, but he was moving and I didn't have a lot of time to focus.

When he got closer, I did shake his hand and offer a quick greeting, but decided that under the circumstances taking a selfie would not be dignified. He made his way out of the church pretty quickly and was on his way shortly thereafter. After all, he was there for the mass not for glad-handing with the crowd.

I have no idea why Mr. Walesa was in Dubai. I was there on a business trip. You never know who you’re going to run into or where.