My fifth grade son recently went on a school trip to Washington, DC. I kept the itinerary on the refrigerator, and every once in a while I’d check the clock and then the schedule, and I’d imagine what he was doing at the time.
“How was the musical?” I asked during one of our quick nightly phone calls. He was on the tour bus, traveling back to the hotel after seeing Ragtime. He said it made him cry.
“You sound like you’re still crying,” I said.
“Yeah, I’m still recovering.”
The musical portrays three families striving for the American dream at the turn of the 20th century. The lives of a wealthy white family, a daring Harlem musician and a determined Jewish immigrant intersect, and their fates are bound and profoundly changed.
Through words, through song, and through those who put their hearts and souls into that performance, my son’s perspective had grown, expanded in some way. What a powerful thing.
Meanwhile, my younger son is participating in a Flat Stanley project at school. He and his second grade classmates each designed their very own Stanley. The Stanleys were mailed to friends and family across the country and across the globe. My son’s Stanley visited our friend in Scotland:
The second grade Stanleys are now saying goodbye to their hosts and traveling back to the elementary school. When they return, the students will spend some time each day learning about each one: where that particular Stanley went, what he did, and what he saw.
This reminds me that we don’t necessarily have to spend a lot of money or go anywhere to travel outside our own worlds. Whether we’re 7, or 77, we can experience new and important places through conversations, through art. In these moments, we discover how we’re connected. The great big world feels smaller, less divided. Even if for a moment.
All it really takes is a sense of curiosity and a willingness to listen, to hear. To open our eyes, to see.