Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Walk on the Mall

A few further details, with some photos, from last night's walk on the Mall in DC. After Kyle and I came back to the hotel to recuperate from our busy day we departed in the evening via metro for the Mall area to view several of the Monuments. Editorially I simply have to say how much I appreciate a city that has public transportation. As much as I like the community where I live, we are not big enough to have any kind of reliable, efficient public transit, so every time any one of his needs to do something it involves getting into one of our three vehicles and driving for minutes across town. I cringe when I think about unsustainable this kind of lifestyle is, yet there are few options for us. I love the opportunity to walk to the metro station in a city like DC, hop on the metro and pay relatively little for a worry-free ride into the city. But I digress.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have discovered that travel with a family member can create important opportunities to develop, renew or assess a relationship. While I enjoy simply have a companion to travel with, I have become more intentional over the years in utilizing these opportunities to build depth of relationship. This has historically been the case with our son Kyle, my current travel companion. In fact, now that I think about it, it may be the times we have traveled together that have helped us develop the relationship we currently have.

Last night's walk on the Mall reminds me that even at the "adult" age of 21 Kyle and I have a good connection; it is relationship I have worried about over the years, so I feel good to see evidence that it still exists, that I have something to offer him, and that he is relatively willing to allow me a continuing place in his life. Not all parents of 21 year-olds can say that, so I feel grateful to God.

Upon exiting the metro we walked toward the Washington Monument, that distinctive obelisk erection sundering the sky. It is simple, but hardly subtle, a continuing reminder of the depth of connection our country has had with founding father George over the past 250 years. It was fun to be able to tell my college-graduate son the account of why the Monument has two distinctive colors. His degree concentration was in social studies, a topic near and dear to my heart, so anytime I can share some tidbit of knowledge with him that he does not know it makes my heart glad. Fortunately we have developed the ability over the years to have a reciprocal relationship, so I am equally as interested in what he might know that I do not. It is not a personal ego trip for me to "know more," but simply an opportunity to add value to his life. He accepts it, asks questions of me, and isn't afraid to disagree if it's not as he has understood it.

One of the most serene and dignified Memorials in DC is the World War II Memorial, with its cascading fountains of water, remembered theaters of action carved into marble, and pillars for each state or dependency of the United States. Kyle adds a little personality to his pose by our state's pillar. The World War II Memorial has about a sense of completion, significance, gratitude, peace.

We continued down the Mall, headed for the Lincoln Memorial (which is more than a short hike down the Mall, let me tell you). We mounted the multiple steps and entered the sacrosanct area which houses an enormous Abraham Lincoln, surrounded by several of his most important public proclamations.

From the Lincoln Memorial we headed to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, whose entrance is flanked by this trio. My photography doesn't do the emotion of the grouping justice. There is a grim sense of awkward determination on each of the person's faces, a haunting look in the eyes that connotes the ennui of the era. It is a heartbreaking preface to the nearly 60,000 names carved on the stark black marble columns. Name upon name upon name. We passed family members tracing the names of their loved ones of sheets of paper. There were aging veterans of the Vietnam era looking for the names of buddies killed or lost in action. It is a grievous reminder of the ravages of a war machine ravenously unsatiated, doomed to something much less than "success." I said little as we walked along, feeling in my heart the emptiness this Memorial evokes. My quiet mental meanderings were interrupted by my son's adroit summation: "What a waste. Thousands of people killed for nothing." I didn't challenge his assertion, believing that he was speaking not of the brave men and women who gave themselves (willingly or unwillingly) as persons, but rather to the Vietnam era itself. The contrast between the World War II Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is hauntingly palpable.

Walking away toward the Rainbow Pool we heard a group (obviously a church-related group) singing a contemporary praise and worship tune, accompanied by a zealous guitarist. They were singing together, fifty-strong probably, but there was no one else around. Kyle had begun to hum the music when I said, probably too sarcastically, "What's the point?" Looking at me with surprise on his face he said, "What do you mean? They're worshiping." "But why here?" I said. "There's not even anyone else around to benefit from it" (betraying my personal philosophy that public demonstrations of spirituality should be connected to witness of some sort or it's more about those present and not to the larger culture for whom Christian faith needs to be directed). "Why not here?" he challenged me. "I mean, how is that different than Sunday morning in a church with walls? Really, Dad, I'm beginning to question your faith." "Well, excuse me, Pastor Kyle, thank you for correcting my faulty theology," I tried to say as humbly as possible. He smiled knowingly, and I within, since it opened the opportunity for us to discuss some faith-related matters. I thank God that Kyle maintains a spiritual sensitivity and sensibility that while, by his own admission, he needs to act upon with more intentionality, is a solid part of his life. I consider that the most important role I have had in my son's life, instilling in him the values of Christian faith with an open-minded ethos that isn't afraid to question.

By the time we stumbled back into our hotel room, tired from the day's activity, I had many reasons to thank God for this time together with my adult son.

1 comment:

Ann said...

Hi Bart-I'm enjoying your accounts of Washington D.C. I've always wanted to visit our nation's capitol.