“Oh, you’re going to miss us when we’re gone,” they said without a single doubt and with every tooth showing in picture perfect grins. These boys had called it far before we would have to say goodbye, and with no surprise, they were right.

Team Israel jumped on the tour bus to Kakadu as tired as I, but much more chipper. “Good Morning,” they said kindly to the strangers they’d captivate the coming days. We kept quiet while the sun rose blood orange across a foggy plain; like a moment of silence to honor the mad adventure on its way. I asked how I would greet them in Hebrew and they said ‘Shalom’. “It’s like a hello or a goodbye” they say. “And it means peace, right?” I ask. They nod to agree and I like that. A greeting; a hello, a goodbye, and peace. And then we began to chat, small and quiet until they had me laughing like solitary bursts of pure joy, and they were right.

The one started talking about his journey, having finished his time in the army and coming here to Australia afterward. The other putting in his ear buds while I probed the first about that army. He told me about the regulations for joining the army, the honor it was to serve and protect his country, and how it is so easily misunderstood by those who have not had to take the same path; easily misunderstood and far too easy to throw their own opinions at. “I haven’t even felt it firsthand, but could you imagine waking your babies in the middle of the night and running for safety because alarms are going off or because you hear noises like bombs nearby? We have to stand up for peace.”

“I haven’t even felt it myself,” he said while choosing to try understand the predicaments of strangers. I hadn’t experienced war either, but I was taken. I was captivated. I watched these two for the next few days and seen more joy for life than I’d felt in forever. They’d play a little guitar they were just learning through strangers along the way, and they’d make us whistle along. They were the first to jump into pools under rushing waterfalls, first to call the next drinking game, first to smile, to hug, to laugh.

They’d tell us the most useless information like it were helpful to the whole wide world like, “When you get to the front of the line you ask for three ketchup, two mayo. It’s the perfect combo, and when you say it like its normal, they won’t charge you extra.” We laughed around the table under the rain and practised our face and tone while repeating the line. I can’t tell you how often they’d turn to me and say with both hands stretch toward me, “Relax, relax.” I needed that, even while laughing, we need that. It was so simple. Life was so simple for them, and for everyone else when they were around. It was joy and it spread itself thick for everyone to have.

See we all come from somewhere. We come from places we’re proud of, situations we regret, and sometimes even, places others have plenty of opinion about – even without having experienced it themselves. But we’ve still got the choice to continue from there and journey on, say hello to some strangers, and learn to laugh together under the same sun. Learn to find and know the sort of joy that seeps. The kind of joy that moves others into joy. The kind of living that moves others into life in such a simple way it stings them deeply; they were right. I would miss them when they were gone. Shalom boys!