For obvious reasons, this summer looked very different than last summer. Although we did get to do some stuff all together before Evan went back to school, we didn’t do a ‘normal’ family vacation where we were all together. On the other hand, I did get to have a couple of road trips individually with each son.
In mid-July Zach and I flew to Reno, saw my family for a day, then spent two more days driving a 1998 Mazda pickup (code for: “manual everything”) over 1,000 miles back to Denver. BTW: a/c broke the second day. It didn’t matter – this was Zach’s first car and he was super pumped!
Two weeks later I rented a 2019 Dodge Truck V8 Hemi (way more comfortable than Zach’s truck) so that Evan and I could haul all his stuff back up to Bozeman, MT for his sophomore year at Montana State. Another 700+ miles.
What was Sydney doing? Getting strep throat. On both Saturdays of those road trips I received phone calls from Sydney, “I think I have strep throat.” She did, wrapping up the summer with a tonsillectomy. Definitely not exactly what she had in mind to start her September.
While maybe we didn’t all have our best summer, surely there were still some fun memories and experiences? Possibly it was an opportunity to see and do things from a different perspective? It sure felt that way to me: even though I had made these trips before, they were different this time.
- Obviously when we drive instead of fly the process is slower. That’s especially true when driving a 22 year old car that can’t go over 70 mph. But since I didn’t do all the driving it gave me time to simply sit and observe. One thing that hit me: not all places in our country are as beautiful as Colorado (eg. northern Nevada), and some are prettier (western Montana).
- Not everyone lives in a big city, nor thinks like an urbanite. Small towns along I80, US 6, I25 (north of CO), and I90 present a very different experience than living in here in Denver (and definitely not like being in Los Angeles). Having said that, in late July when traveling through these areas at the beginning of the mask mandates I thought for sure the people there would thumb their nose at it – they didn’t. The truckers on the other hand – I only saw about half of them follow the rules, and no one was going to tell them otherwise.
- This country is still an amazing place to live. The sheer diversity of our geography, and our people, add to the beauty and novelty. Even when we all don’t see things from the same perspective, it is the diversity that adds to the experience.
Nowhere was I reminded more of the diversity of our country than one night in Bozeman. Yes, I know, that is an odd sentence; and the rest of this letter is going to go in a slightly different direction than usual.
When we arrived in town on the last day of July it was close to 100 degrees. We had been driving since 5am, had done lots of unloading and moving, and now we were hot, sweaty, tired – and hungry. After parking the truck just off Main St. in downtown we noticed a lot of honking, yelling, and loud pickup trucks belching black smoke out of their exhaust. As we got closer we were struck by the sight of what appeared to be LGBT members wearing rainbow-colored attire, waving flags; and Trump/Pence supporters in the trucks, waving big flags (different flags). I can’t think of a bigger contrast between the two groups, and certainly not what we were expecting.
On the way back to the truck from dinner, again walking along Main Street, we came across a white male in his mid-30s, thin, cropped hair, wearing a white shirt tucked into his jeans, Oakley sunglasses, and a pistol on his belt. He was leaning up against his street-legal ATV that had four seats. In the front seat were two young girls, about 9 and 11. He was in a heated discussion with a young Black man and two Latino men. I didn’t stop long enough to listen to the entire conversation (it would have been weird, and well, the white guy was wearing a gun and I am a bit of a wuss), but the gist was they were having a disagreement over Black Lives Matter and racism.
The summer started with some fun and innocent road trips, but the images of that evening are still resonating with me. As we move towards November and the noise levels increase, I just can’t help but think that there will be lots more ‘yelling, arguing and parading,’ but no difference being made. Maybe it’s just me, but in my experience yelling at people doesn’t often make a positive impact. In 15+ years of going door to door, I have met and spoken to tens of thousands of people. They are all over the place politically and socially, yet when I am at their door we are talking (usually) about what’s most important to them and their life. My job is not to sway them, my job is to serve them. That usually happens when I lead with listening.
John Adams, in a letter to his wife Abigail, said “We can’t guarantee success in this war, but we can do something better. We can deserve it.” This November we can deserve the freedoms given to us. We can be responsible citizens and vote.
As I make my way through neighborhoods this time of year I see the political sides people are on. No problem. We can be vocal in what we believe is right, but in the end, when the election is over, we must all still be neighbors to one another, and in that regard maybe there is a little more room to be deserving of one another.