His beard once went to his bones. A red, bushy beard. In Trogir (Croatia) Noel had stopped cutting him. His beard grew unhindered somewhere in the wilderness of the state of Washington. Now his beard is off.
I meet Noel in San Francisco, where he spends a few days vacationing. He is 27, chemical engineer and comes from Portland. Thanks to the internet community CouchSurfing we spend the night with the same host.
As I entered, Noel politely stood up, gave me a hand, and introduced himself. He is immediately sympathetic to me. After a trip to Alcatraz, I ask him if he wants to tell me about his life. He is only confused, then tense and agrees.
Disorientation after graduation
He had completed his studies with 22 years, but was burned out of exams and the many boring and internships, one each summer. Also from the relationship with a girl, who took the two again and again and finally left completely. Noel felt empty. After completing his studies, he wanted to do two things: doing something different - and traveling.
So it was that for two weeks in Trogir he cleaned huge machines in a ship's engine. After that, Noel linked to what was today one of the most important moments of his life: the conversion to the Christian faith at the age of 17 years.
Journey to the self
After physical work in Croatia, he embarked on a complicated journey into the wilderness of Washington. Metaphorically, in the thicket of his self. He first took a bus, then a boat, and hitchhiked the last piece to a liberal Christian community of Lutherans. In the three months he stayed there, he did not find God, but realized that he could not run away from his home situation.
He moved back to Portland. He could not unravel his beard, so he cut him off. He accepted a job as an engineer to pay the bills. Went standard dancing. He joined the community of "Imago Dei" [Latin for "image of God"] and asked God to find him after searching in vain for God.
Now it's uphill
The sun blinds Noel a bit and with narrowed eyes and a grin he tells me over a coffee at Fisherman's Wharf that it's uphill for him now.
With the long 40 week of week Noel can live, because he gets along well with his colleagues. But his work also fulfills him because sustainability is important to him and his company sells products that clean rainwater and thus keep lakes, rivers and oceans in ecological balance.
For a year, his favorite year so far, he had received subtle, small signs from God. He was searching for grace and an overarching truth that, as he says, is experienced by everyone. Today he is sure that this truth exists.
Participated in the Nacktradrennen
Did God encourage him to participate in nude bike races? Noel did it anyway. Only in a large group at night, then once during the day, where he had expected as many participants. Unfortunately, only 40 came and the small group met unexpectedly on a parade, the end of which they were then asked to form. "I do not want to know how many people have nude pictures of me. I do not even have any. "
In the future, Noel wants to marry. For him marriage is a lifelong commitment that helps the partners to become better people. The willingness not to leave the others, no matter what happens, he does not consider for untimely romance, but for realism. Man is a social being, he says.
Main thing human
What I like about Noel so much is his humanity. He acts to do good to others. When a homeless man asks us for a dollar, Noel gives him his hand and then the money. He says to me that it does not matter to him what the man does with the main thing he notices that he is respected.
As is so often the case, I realize that today we have the freedom to choose our own faith. This is positive, but at the same time it means a certain disorientation for many people.
An example that gives hope
Even in Noel's life, I can see how difficult it has been for him to find a belief that puts his values and his life in a larger context. His convictions offer him real support today.
And Noel's example gives hope. There is work that is well paid - and that enriches people and society in addition. I wonder, however, if this claim is luxury or if you can put it as an entrants to society? Noel deserves his luck.
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