Monday, April 21, 2008

Fun Monday-Thing's I'm Glad I've done

Southern Doll is hosting this week's Fun Monday. She wants us to list those things we're glad we did in life, the things that will flash through our minds when the end is near. I could list dozens of things. I'm glad I got married. I'm thrilled I became a mother. I'm happy I've traveled to exciting places, and I'm glad I've taken the time to really get to know certain people in my life. Second to those things (but very important to me) is the fact that I live spontaneously. I never pass up a chance to dance, an opportunity to sing off-key or put myself in danger of humiliation. And it rarely fails to please me. Some of my most satisfying moments have been due to spur of the moment decisions. One that specifically comes to mind happened about a year ago.

Last February I chaperoned a trip to Washington, DC with my daughter and three bus loads of middle school students. We saw all kinds of amazing things like the White House, the Capitol, the National Archives, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, Arlington Cemetery and the Kennedy Center. Our last day in DC was a "free" day where we were allowed to visit whatever attractions we wanted to see in downtown DC as long as we spent some time at the Smithsonian museums and stayed in decent sized groups. Safety in numbers, you know. Me and the four girls for which I was responsible planned to spend the day with another group. The other group wanted to squeeze as much as possible into the day and mapped out an ambitious schedule that left no room for delays, detours or indecision. They had us scheduled down to mere minutes. We went along with that plan because we wanted to see so many things that day. Things went well until we got to the Holocaust Museum, where we were allotted thirty minutes until we were to head next door to the Treasury Department for a tour on how money is made. We zipped through the special exhibit but ran out of time for the permanent exhibit upstairs which houses the most significant artifacts in the museum's collection. Me and my girls kept lingering for more looks, and the other group kept waving for us to hurry so we could leave. I could tell my girls didn't want to go yet. I understood. I felt compelled to stay, too. I huddled them together and asked them if they wanted to stay. They did. I asked them if they realized the upstairs exhibits would be pretty graphic. They did. I knew staying would mean splitting off from our larger group and leave me shuttling four young women around a city I didn't really know...alone. It's an awesome responsibility to take care of someone else's children, and I always keep that in mind when chaperoning. The thought of someone getting hurt or lost on my watch terrifies me. A little voice inside me nudged me to break away from the other group anyway, and I did. The other adults looked at me warily and moved on reluctantly. I ignored their frowns and headed up the steps with my girls. We spent a long time upstairs, viewing each display and reading the information that went with it. We stood in a rail car that once transported thousands of Jews to death camps and still smelled of pain. We stood in front of a huge pile of shoes collected from the Jews as they arrived at the camps. We saw pictures of horrible crimes against humanity and looked into the faces of victims captured in old photos. It was incredibly moving. In fact, it was probably the most educational part of the whole trip. The girls were very quiet the whole time. As we left I was trying to figure out how to find our next stop without getting lost or mugged. I began to second guess my decision to stay when one of the girls looked at me and said, "That was much better than seeing how money is made." I smiled at her. In an instant she melted my concerns. "Yes," I said. "It really was."

9 comments:

janjanmom said...

Your spontaneity changed 5 lives for the better.

Heather said...

That was awesome! Those girls will forever be touched by what they saw that day.

I was fortunate enough to see Dachau (a concentration camp) when I was 11 or 12 yeasr old as well as Anne Frank's house. They still have a lasting impact on me so many years later of what extreme hatred can make people do to others.

ChrisB said...

That little act will, I'm sure, influence those girls in later life. You will probably never really know the impact of the things they saw in that exhibition~ but the one girl's comment shows you made the right choice.

Kelly @ Love Well said...

And that's the beauty of not being tied to the agenda.

Did you ever read the WaPo article Pearls Before Breakfast that was published last year? It's a really long, incredibly moving treaty about how we are so busy in our daily lives to even stop and notice beauty.

Jo Beaufoix said...

Wow, that must have been amazing. Harrowing, humbling but amazing. We have a holocaust centre not far from us which I plan to take my girls to when they are a little older. I think it's something we all need to face.

Sayre said...

Oh - how amazing. And life changing. It doesn't seem like much, but those girls will remember you and that museum exhibit for the rest of their lives.

Alison said...

what a wonderful moment in time....that is what living is all about!!

Amy said...

Nice story, Hula.:)

Jason said...

That's kind of how I felt when I first saw Schindler's List. Some things are just impossible to fathom, even when they're being played out right in front of your eyes.