Over the past two days, I’ve had many people ask about my vacation. And it’s one of those sort of life-changing vacations–if you’ve ever had one, you know what I’m talking about–that you can’t explain in just a few minutes. It’d take me hours to talk about it. But for those who care, here are the highlights. And if you want to hear the whole story, I’ll probably tell you, if you ask. Here’s part of it. :)
1) I learned that Carl Sandburg went by Charlie until he was 30 because he thought Carl sounded too Swedish.
2) I learned that he owned 17 THOUSAND books.
3) I met a vegan who believes in reincarnation and made me eat healthy food while I was there. I didn’t eat much.
4) I tried German food at the Haus Heidelberg in Hendersonville. If you go, get the Peach Melba for dessert.
5) I laughed a great deal.
6) Tried a lot of new things.
7) Went on a few dates with people I didn’t know beforehand.
8) I saw water droplets frozen on the tips of pines.
9) I ate breakfast like a queen every morning.
10) I realized that everybody believes that what they’re doing and how they live their life is right. And I realized that it doesn’t mean I can’t like them or get along with them or love them.
11) I lit a candle in a Roman Catholic basilica with a guy I’d just met.
12) I learned to appreciate the sun.
13) I learned that I hate the movie “500 Days of Summer” and am totally done thinking that Joseph Gordon Levitt is cute.
But most of all, I learned that I can’t do this all on my own. I need people in my life, to talk to, to listen to, to learn from, to love. New people, new experiences are so good for us sometimes.
We get so stuck with our lives the way they are and we forget how big the world is, how many people are just out there, waiting for us to say hello.
Carl Sandburg was asked, in 1954, what the worst word in the English language is. He responded with:
“When you’re exclusive, you shut out a wide range of humanity from your heart, from understanding them.”
To Sandburg, we were all part of the same world. Indeed, when he died, his wife sold the house, gave away 5,000 of his books to the University of Chicago and left everything in the house exactly as it was, taking only her clothing and necessities. Why?
She said Carl belonged to America, he belonged to the world.
He was a man who cared more about other people than himself. He wrote his poetry on a typewriter balanced on an orange crate. He was a socialist. The only award he was ever truly proud of was the lifetime achievement award from the NAACP for his work “for the negro and the common man.”
I think we forget what matters a lot. I think I did.
But this weekend, I was reminded of what matters. I was reminded that there are people who really do care about other people more than themselves.
I was reminded of my great friend, Scottie Kale. He died in 2010 at the age of 19. But he was one of those people–honest, good, never exclusive, always enjoyed the simple things in life. You could count on him to tell you the truth, to be there for you, to value others and be a help.
Since my vacation, I’m inspired to be different. There are so many people in the world who are nothing like Carl or Scottie. Duplicitous, angry, rude, selfish–so many adjectives. But maybe, things would change if we’d all be a little more honest, a little more open to people who aren’t like us.
Maybe…those people are just waiting for you to care, to take an interest in who they are without trying to change who they are.
Maybe they’re just waiting for you to say hello.