“Bam is still here!”

said Mr. Panjalizadeh, owner of the Akbar Guest House in Bam, Iran.

“We get energy from you people who visit us.”

In 2003 a 6.6 earthquake hit Bam, devastating the city. Most of my Iranian friends thought I was crazy to drive all the way to Bam. “There’s nothing there,” they said. Nothing could be further from the truth. True, the place had been wrecked, but – after visiting the stunning citadel – I joined Mr. Panjalizadeh for tea in the garden of his guesthouse, seriously damaged by the earthquake and which still resembles a construction site.

But, opening his torn visitor’s books salvaged from the wreckage, I read the treasured memories of his previous guests. I felt humbled by what I read, and energized by this old man’s optimism.