Sunday, March 10

Travel notes, briefly

I am in Nashville, AR which is about 30 miles north of Hope, AR. I have a meeting tomorrow with some folks who are very clearly worried about what they can do and need to do to help their teachers and their students as they wrestle with this Common Core thing.

But that's not why I write. In the past several months, I traveled to cities, towns, and villages large and small. Sometimes I work on the plane. Sometimes the best I can do is scrunch in on myself on the small plane and try to read, maybe nap. This trip I watched the Merchant-Ivory-Wolper Surviving Picasso (1996) with Anthony Hopkins, Joan Plowright, Julianne Moore, and the luminous Natascha McElhone. That's relevant only because of some great lines delivered by the great Sir Anthony Hopkins: "You can try anything in painting provided you never do it again. Don't become your own connoisseur."

My translation to life is this: "You can try anything. Don't get too wrapped up in yourself and your abilities." I'm quite sure what to do with that; I'm still musing.

I flew from Chicago to DFW and then to Texarkana, AR before the drive up to Nashville. Texarkana is home to a small regional airport. Driving up there are acres of pine stands and fenced land with clumps of cattle, and one good-sized pasture with about half a dozen donkeys. Not mules; I know the difference. Donkeys.

I drove through a tiny little place with a population of 81. Just 20 minutes up the road was a larger town, over 4,000 souls, with distinctively better housing and better-looking livestock. I took a deep breath and wondered about the hopes and dreams of the people in that 81-person place. Do they dream? Do they dare dream? Do they wish for more or other?

In this part of the country, a house may be a church. The landscape along the back roads is dotted with small churches, mostly Baptist, of course. I flashed back to the youngish couple sitting in a waiting area at O'Hare, hands clasped, heads down, eyes closed, and he praying. And I wonder about the people who attend those churches, leaving, in some cases, their rusted trailers, their aging homes with sagging roofs and dragging porches, their yards that have amassed all manner of leftovers, cast-offs, and just flat-out junk.

As I travel, as I drive, as I think about the difference an education can make, as I think about what I have and am able to do and what I know and what I could be doing, I know I am blessed. And I am grateful for every mile traveled, for every smile exchanged, for every idea discussed, for every conversation of conflict or dissension or disagreement, for every moment I have touched and been touched by someone else's life.

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