Ray Padre Johnson served as a medic in the Vietnam War. He worked as a cowboy on ranches in Wyoming’s Wapiti Valley, and discovered his love of painting. He spent a dozen years traveling the world, living in 159 countries, where he ate with people, danced with them, and got to know them. Padre painted the portraits of more than 500 people from that experience and assembled them into a book called Journeys with the Global Family.
“Our responsibility is to pass on the good and enjoy each individual.”
The last time I was in Harlem, on my journey around the world, I told my cab driver, “Leave me off at this corner.” He looked at me like I was from another planet. He said, “I can’t do this. I think you’re probably the only white man around this area.” I said, “Leave me off.” I had already been through the Vietnam War and I had been through about 85 percent of my journey around the world. I was comfortable.
I was standing on the corner and immediately I was surrounded by four men, of a different color.
I said, “Gentleman, I am a real-life cowboy from Wyoming and I’m down here just to enjoy you and to learn. If you don’t mind, I’d like to hang around.”
“Are all cowboys like you?”
“No. We all wear a different fingerprint. I’m an artist, also, and from my view, you’re all wearing a different color, a different nose shape, a different eye shape, forehead, cheekbones. I see us all as uniquely different, but similar. No one will ever look like you again. Or think like you. You’re that important.”
“We have a bunch of friends, would you come with us?”
The next thing, I’m with about 15 guys. I’m staying over night and eating with them. We were having fun laughing. Those endorphins were flowing and adding about three years to each one’s life. All over the world, everyone wanted me to stay because they could see I’m an explorer. I’m an adventurer. I’m always seeing worth inside of the next human being that is so different than anyone else, and yet, so similar.
Ray Padre Johnson short audio clip
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- What makes you unique? How do other people respond to that uniqueness?
- Have you ever been in a dangerous or potentially dangerous place? What was that experience like? How did you handle it?
- When was the last time you interacted with someone who was vastly different from you? What are some words you would use to describe that interaction?
- How has travel been a part of your life? How has it changed your perspective?
- When have you been “an instrument of acceptance, of goodness, of caring, of being there with your presence”?