Jamaica is beautiful in every single way. The beaches are clean, and the water is crystal clear. The food is to die for, and the people are sweeter than the sugar canes that grow like wildfire. In my week long adventure through Jamaica the phrase “One Love” was the mantra, the heartbeat of the people. There is no other place in my worldly travels that I have witnessed such genuine love for the people as well as the land.
In a country where tourism is such a big part of the economy, it is easy for resort goers to get caught up in the spa packages and private beaches but something so much more powerful is happening here. People who are working for their next meal, their child’s education, or their way out of a dead-end job are living and working just outside the resort walls. I have never witnessed such genuine love of life and happiness in all of my worldly travels. Our driver Mark who has since become a dear friend told us “We have everything in the world that we need except for money.” Currency or lack of it is not what defines the happiness of the Jamaican people, but rather respect for your fellow man.
In the next few days, I got to spend with Mark I witnessed his words being put into action time and time again. On the drive to Ocho Rios from Montego Bay, Mark was driving down the highway looking for some great pull over spots for David to get some photos when he saw a man on the other side of the road pulled over with a flat tire. Without giving it a second thought, he swerved through, at times, oncoming traffic to get to the man to help him. This was unheard of to me. I must sadly say in my day I have passed countless flat tires (on the same side of the road), and I have never pulled over. I especially would not give a second thought to pulling over when there were already two or three other people helping which was the case in this instance. When Mark made it back to the car we explained to him that this would never happen back at home he was almost surprised that was the case.
The next time I witnessed the One Love lifestyle was when we were stuck in traffic in downtown Montego Bay. Mark rolled down his window and took some money out of his pocket and handed it to a woman on the street and asked her to buy him a bottle of soda. Without so much as a blink, the woman took the money and brought him back a cold drink from the cooler. Could you imagine the look someone would give you if you tried to do that in New York City or Miami? I found myself questioning the authenticity of what I was seeing. I asked Mark if he knew who the woman was, seeing as he knows a lot of people from being a taxi driver. He said no she was a stranger. “That's just what we do mon.” he chuckled as he watched our shocked faces as the words flowed from his lips.
The last and most powerful encounter I had with the people of Jamaica was when we were driving through Hanover, which is about 41 Kilometers from our resort. David and I stopped into one of the local shops to pick up some gifts when a man called us over to him. I am usually not one to entertain street vendors. They were everywhere you looked on the island and eventually it just becomes background noise. This man caught my attention immediately. I recognized him. It was Winston, the bartender from our resort. Here he was at his second job of the day and treating us like his family. He asked us how we were enjoying the city and made small talk for a few minutes. He then asked me if I knew what the colors on his necklace meant. I half-heartedly guessed the colors of the Jamaican flag, but his response shook my core. He perfectly explained everything the encompasses the One Love lifestyle. "The black is for the people, the yellow is for the sun, the green is for the plantation, and the red is for the blood. You see, black is for the people, and red is for the blood. We all share the same blood. We are all one people. One love.”