It is Monday, April 2nd and I am in a Sheraton Hotel Lobby at 6:14 a.m. with a cup of coffee and a few hours from boarding a plane and heading back to the United States of America.
It has been a remarkable opportunity and gift to travel with my family to Europe.
We have seen incredible sights. We have made lasting memories. We have gotten on one another’s nerves from time to time.
In every place I go in my life I try to find something different and unique and special about my experience.
This trip has been no difference.
Unlike my first time to Europe thirty-six years ago with my brother, Butch, I spent some time observing more of the world around me in London and Paris, and along the Normandy countryside.
Yes, there are the great tourism spots and we spent some time at those places. I don’t regret staying on the beaten path from time to time. There’s a reason that places like Buckingham Palace, Westminster, Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower and so many similar spots find themselves besieged by millions of visitors each year.
It’s the basic human nature in all of us to say “I’ve been there!”
To say, “I’ve seen that!”
We also got off the beaten path, too. Instead of staying at hotels on this trip we stayed in other people’s homes — we saw the world they live in every single day from their living room, kitchen, bedroom and their front door.
We went to the places they shop for food, drink and where they eat out when they aren’t in the mood to prepare their own meal.
Around us in their neighborhoods we saw the places where they might work, worship or run into friends, do laundry and find a place to mend their broken bones.
In the places farthest out from the big cities of London and Parish we walked in the same steps as those who were exiled from their homes by marauding troops of foreign nations. Saw the cemeteries where many were blessed with the chance to die in their beds in their old age and the sadness of the gravestones of tens of thousands who took their last breath on the cold ground in violent acts.
As Americans we could close our eyes and see the arrival of thousands of young American men coming across a cold, wet and windy English Channel to be injured and to be killed on a cold, wet and windy beach in France.
We traced the journey of thousands of brave allied soldiers as they fought to rid the world of the treachery of a Dictator who sent millions of scared boys to kill millions of other scared boys.
As a Dad I was able to see the interest and the wonder of my children as they found those special places along our travels that captured their imagination and touched their heart and made their spirit soar.
They will remember this trip in their own way which is how my wife and I want them to remember it. She and I will remember it in our own ways, as well.
There will be the simple joy and blessing of parents being able to help their children see a world outside of their own.
The decision to leave a little earlier one morning to drive out of our way to give our son the chance to see a church steeple where a man he admires dropped from the sky to hang from his parachute until he freed himself and set out to free others from oppression.
The chance to bring our daughter to the places that fascinate her and make her smile and think about the possibility she may return some day to live on her own. Of course, the pleasure of a Dad being able to enjoy a final dinner in Paris with her and the lifelong memory we will have of a sweet little mouse frightening us as we enjoyed our meal!
It has been a wonderful trip – one of many I have had the privilege to have in the 17 plus years my wife and I have had the privilege to have children in our lives.
It is children, and their parents, and those without children and those who are not parents, that bring me to the close of this post.
Everywhere we travelled and everywhere we went the people of the places we visited are not terribly different from any single one of us.
They have their own hopes and dreams. They have their own life experiences. They have their own sadness and tragedy.
They live their life in the same way each of us in America live our life.
Day-to-day. Every day.
It’s easy in a world of nearly 8 billion to lose sight of the fact that as much as each of us may be different in our own way, all of us are the same in that we inhabit the same planet.
We are born, we live, and we die.
How our life journey goes from the moment we are born to the moment we die is different for each one of us.
But, we all have the same basic desire to matter to someone. To mean something. To have someone care for us. Love us. Care about us.
Americans. French. British.
No matter how different we are we are all the same on this planet we call Earth.