Travel is one way to gain an appreciation of what you have and what you don’t have. I don’t think you have to travel to foreign lands to discover new parts of the world and most importantly, new parts of yourself. We are blessed to live in a diverse, expansive, beautiful country and even though I do not have wanderlust and do not yearn to travel internationally, I do want to see our country and expose myself and my children to as much of it as possible.
When I look back over our past travels, the places we go are remembered in our photo albums and travel journals, but it is the people we meet that stay with us in our hearts. There was the bookstore owner in Chattanooga, the shell store owner in Sanibel, the restauranteur in Huntsville, the bellhop and the taxi driver in Puerto Rico, our teachers at Marine Science Consortium, and most recently, the woman who at 15 snuck out of her house and marched over the Selma bridge in 1964 and the homeless man who educated us in the park about the history of the Montgomery neighborhood he grew up in and the true stories of some of the monuments we viewed. Every trip has meaning and every trip teaches us something about ourselves and our unique country. The people we take the time to chat with give us a new point of view to ponder, a bit of history to view from a different perspective, teachings about a place, thing or event to learn and most importantly they give us questions to answer. History is his or her story. Simple. And not so simple.
Would my 13 and 15 year old daughters sneak out and march?
Would I be brave enough to say no?
Would we put ourselves in harm’s way to change our lives?
Would we sit in?
Would we share in the dream?
When Grace began to show an interest in civil rights and black culture, I never imagined that this interest would lead us to one day walk over the Edmund Pettus Bridge. I could not have known that we would sit in the 16th Avenue Baptist Church and pray. I would never have believed that we would stand at the very bus stop where Rosa Parks took her last ride on a segregated bus. How could I? We read stories, made time lines, watched videos, listened to Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have A Dream Speech, but we truly learned when we walked in his footsteps, wrote down our experiences, talked to those who marched, spoke with those who lived in the neighborhood where the protests took place, prayed in the church where a bomb took the lives of children, and realized the enormity of the events that took place fifty years ago.
There is one moment that I will never ever forget, as we walked through the Civil Rights Museum in Birmingham, Alabama that Lilah looked at me and said, “Mom, this is such a sad place. Why did you bring us here?” The empathy she felt for the girls who died at the church tugged on the strings of my heart and we both realized that just outside the window next to us, just a few feet from where we stood the world was changing and children were participating in the struggle for their freedoms. At this moment I thanked God for my amazing daughters and the experience we had to learn at the source and feel what we were feeling, not from a textbook but from a truly sacred space.