Friday, June 1, 2012

The world is so big, and the world is so small.

As I acclimate to being back home after traveling through Europe for the better part of two weeks, two things continue to strike me:

The world is so big. And the world is so small.

The first idea is a pretty simple one to grasp: Our planet is a big place. Despite the degree to which we all believe we’re globally minded, most of us also live our lives within a radius of a few miles. In other words, while I was aware of the existence of Stonehenge, I hadn’t been terribly bothered by the fact that I hadn’t actually seen in real life. But now that I’ve seen it, I know there’s so very much I’m missing.

I’m also newly aware, though, that no matter where I travel, people are really not a whole lot different from one another. I’ll always believe that by and large, people are good – and I saw that theory bolstered time and time again as we traveled through England, Wales and Ireland.

People want to smile and laugh and hug. They want to welcome you. And they want to know that you appreciate the places they call home. And the old adage is true: People may not remember what you said, but they’ll remember how you made them feel.

I don’t remember the specifics of my conversation with the old men outside a church in Wales, for example, but recall their words about my daughter and the other singers in the choir: how beautiful the “children” were. And how they “sang like the angels.” And how my eyes filled as I grasped the enormity of where I was and how I was feeling at that moment.

And the connections were not solely with the residents of these other countries. They were with some of the students I hadn’t really known prior to this trip, and with some of the adults who shared my “chaperone-but-really-not-a-chaperone” status.

Thousands of miles from home, I connected with Kathi about the joys and challenges of parenting adult children, and with Michele about the similarities in the temperaments of our daughters. I bonded with Anna, who can’t decide whether she should look for a first job far from home, and with Sophie, who missed her mom. And I cried as I listened to several students who, on the last night, stood and talked about what their years in the Drake Choir had meant to them.

And I connected in different ways with my own children. We saw the same sights and heard the same beautiful sounds, and when we look back on the trip in years to come, our frames of reference will be much the same.

Photos can’t do this trip justice; they can’t compare, at least, to the pictures in my own head as I think back over the 12 days I existed in a realm far different from the one in which I usually find myself. The choir members maintained a common blog about the tour, and one student’s comment stays with me: “These are the memories we’ll talk about when we’re in the nursing home.”

Indeed. But I also have a strong suspicion I’ll also find reason to bring them up every day between now and then.

(Photo courtesy of Dave Collier, official tour photographer)

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