Last week was a time of refilling my soul. I gave myself permission to catch up on work, I hung out with friends, and I fell madly and deeply in love with my country. As a result, I feel like I’m settling back into my own skin again a tiny bit and enjoying a heightened sense of peace.
Preparing for this post helped with that peaceful feeling. It’s so easy to forget how much joy is in our lives; it’s like we can only see what is within several hours of right now. But every week when I sit down to go over the photos and events of the past week, specifically focusing on the highlights, I am consistently amazed at just how good life is. Speaking of a good life…
Happiness Highlights: Washington DC
We got up early last Monday on the 4th of July and hopped on a train into DC. We arrived at the National Archives just before 9 am and grabbed a seat on the ground among the crowd. We had all come, not for fireworks, but to hear a reading of the Declaration of Independence. (OK, and for the parade that started at noon. But also for the patriotic reading of this very important document!) Part of the text was read by local sports figures, and the grievances against King George were read by three actors dressed as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams.
I expected to be moved by the reading; I wasn’t prepared for the impact the list of grievances would have on me. I don’t remember reading these in school (although I’m sure I did at some point), and I felt like the grievances more than the promise of inalienable rights gave me a deeper understanding of what our forefathers were really fighting for. I developed another layer of understanding for a lot of things that day.
This is Nuha. She is an English teacher from Egypt visiting the United States as part of an educational program, and by some strange twist of fate we ended up watching the Independence Day Parade together. I’m not sure why she chose to sit by us, or why she picked me out of a throng of spectators to introduce herself to. I’m certain I wasn’t the most qualified person on the street to answer her many questions, but there could not have been anyone who would have been more deeply moved than I was. Her questions about the things I take for granted breathed life into principles I have given lip service to my entire life.
Why did we let those Bolivians dance in our parade?
Why did those Sikhs march waving American flags?
Who are those Vietnamese people in the parade, and what right do they have to be there?
Over and over I told her the same thing.
Neither ethnicity, heritage, nor religion – nor pride in any of those things – made any of them less American. This inclusiveness is something I know intellectually – it’s a lesson I wanted my kids to learn on this trip – but it’s something I take for granted as normal and universal. Nuha’s curiosity and astonishment reminded me just how remarkable that inclusiveness is.
This picture was actually taken by Shiny, one of the friends we watched the fireworks with at the foot of the Washington Monument.
Let me say that again:
We watched the 4th of July Fireworks in Washington DC at the foot of the Washington Monument.
It was fan-flipping-tastic and an experience worthy of a life list. A huge thank you to Mike and Kyra and Cissa for making the night both possible and magical. Both of your families have a permanent place in our hearts – and scrapbook.
Also in my heart permanently is the Smithsonian. Last week we hit up two of the free museums that line the National Mall: the National Museum of American History and the Natural History Museum. They were both fabulous in their own way and I could easily spend several more hours in each. What I really loved was watching Emma’s absolutely ecstasy at seeing the dinosaur exhibit in the Natural History Museum. The child practically shook with glee.
I love that my kids love museums. I love museums, and it’s wonderful to see that they share my love of learning. Watching them move from exhibit to exhibit, making notes and asking questions, vowing to dig deeper when they got home, any doubts I had about this year away from school were completely erased. There are lots of places outside of the classroom where learning can take place if you only open your heart to the opportunities.
I finally got to go to a farmers’ market this weekend. I’ve been wanting to do this since we started our trip, with the goal being to give back to the communities we’re taking from by buying local, but this is the first time it’s actually worked out. It feels damn good to put my money where my values are – and it tastes pretty good, too!
What did you learn this week?
Weekly Happiness Highlights are a list of things that brought me joy, peace, or happiness in the last week. The point is to remember to be grateful, to focus on the good, and to be able to better answer the question “what makes me happy?” If you decide to post your own Happiness Highlights, please feel free to share the link in the comments. I’d love to see what’s making you happy right now!