Monday, June 8, 2009

What's In Virginia?

When I was 16, my dad sent me with a friend on summer vacation to California. We did just about everything there. We went to the theme parks and stayed in Anahiem; we went to Long Beach and stayed just blocks from the beach; we visited Hearst Castle with it's tiles made of 14k gold; we took the Yaht to Catalina - despite the storms; we saw and experienced fast paced LA; we even stayed on a houseboat overnight with my friend's uncle - he lives on the boat and had a girl in every port. I really think we did it all. It was an amazing trip and I was in awe. But, it had to be the camping trip to Yosemite that made the biggest impact on me.

Four members of our party simply didn't fit in the RV we had, so we were ousted to find refuge in a rented TeePee. I was one of the four. At night, the park had a huge bonfire among the teepees, and downed Redwoods were positioned around the fire for seating. We'd bring hot dogs and marshmallows to roast, gather round and sip our hot chocolate; chatting with people from all over the world.

One night, there were about 20 strangers gathered round the fire, and we were going around the circle, each saying where we were from. It seemed everyone was from some wonderful place that I could only dream of seeing. When it came my turn, I said I was from Virginia. "What's In Virginia?" came a voice from the crowd. At 16, I wasn't sure how to answer. It had been a long trip at this point, and I admit to being a bit homesick. "My dad" was all I could really think of; but I knew that's not what he was looking for.

Luckily, another voice from the crowd came. This one announced that she once had to drive through the state of Virginia. She said the whole time she drove through, she kept thinking she must be in a National Park, because it was so beautiful.

Beauty is what is in Virginia. I thought that was a good answer.

On that trip, I met people who'd never seen a live Panda Bear; never swam in the ocean; never watched fireworks with the backdrop of the Washington Monument. I met people who had lived many places, and mostly, that was because they had to move - to find work. I learned about wild fires, mud slides and tornadoes regularly threatening to take people's homes. I learned I was very blessed, and very privileged, just because of where I live.

That night, when I laid down to sleep I had a new thing to be thankful for. I was thankful for my home sweet home. I live here in Northern Virginia; in the shadows of perhaps the most powerful city in the world. I get to experience all 4 seasons to their fullest; visit the Smithsonians, the National Zoo anytime I wish, see the National Monuments, and experience history everywhere I turn. I can see the mountains from my home, and I can get to the beach in just a couple hours. And never, not once, have I ever had to leave to find work, or worry that a natural disaster would take my home. Life here is good.

But, I have to say, even to this day when I hear "What's in Virginia?" My first thought is "My dad."

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