We spent last week in Washington, DC. We visited with good friends, ate good food, toured the museums and the monuments, and had a grand time.
What I will always remember about this trip, however, is the way my daughter's insatiable curiosity, her incessant reading, and her mother's influence have transformed her into a student of the world.
Clara loves Clara Barton. This love began with the name they share, but it quickly grew into a genuine interest and love affair with this woman. She's read several books on Barton and can detail her life history if you have about an hour.
The Clara Barton home is coincidentally just a couple of miles from our friend's home, so we stopped to visit. We were sad to discover that the house is closed. Though it's designated as a historic site (it was also the first headquarters of the Red Cross), it's in disrepair, and it doesn't look like it will be open anytime soon.
We went to look at it even though we knew it was closed, planning on taking a photo of Clara standing outside the house. Instead, we were met by three men who were inspecting the building, and one offered to bring just Clara and Elysha inside. He gave them a private tour of the home, and he and Clara exchanged Clara Barton tidbits.
It was almost better than the house being open to the public. Clara was the first child in a long time to enter the home, making the moment for her very special.
Later that evening, we were touring the FDR monument when Clara spotted a statue to Eleanor Roosevelt, a remarkable politician in her own right. Clara began spouting facts about this female American icon as well, but she also asked at least twice as many questions.
We ended our tour of the monuments that evening at the Lincoln Memorial. Having lived in DC for six months, I'd visited this monument many times, but it was just as awe inspiring this time.
My son, Charlie, couldn't believe that we were allowed to step inside. He asked an endless stream of questions about the architecture and Lincoln himself.
Elysha and Clara sat down in the north chamber so that Elysha could read her the Gettysburg Address aloud.
It's easy in today's political climate to become despondent over all that we see. It's not hard to lose hope and perhaps think that our country is spiraling in the wrong direction.
I am not immune to these sentiments from time to time, and I am an optimist and an anti-alarmist.
But my trip to Washington renewed my spirit.
Abraham Lincoln led our country through the Civil War. Millions of Americans died on American soil in a battle for the future of our union.
Clara Barton served as a nurse during the Civil War. She witnessed horrors beyond imagination in a time when women did not have the right to vote and lacked many of the basic rights and privileges enjoyed by women today.
Eleanor Roosevelt helped to lead our country through the Great Depression and World War II.
These were some of America's most challenging times.
Yet here we stand today. Our country persists.
The not hard to imagine the despair that Americans must have been feeling during the times of Lincoln, Barton, and Roosevelt. I must have been easy for those men and women to lose hope in the future of their country.
Yet they fought. They battled. They persisted. Just like we will.
My greatest hope comes from the wide-eyed, insatiable curiosity of my children and their inherent desire to, in the words of Abigail Adams, do good and be good.
Lincoln, Barton, Roosevelt, and their generations of Americans faced enormous, almost unimaginable challenges, and they won. They preserved and protected this nation for future generations.
Just like I know we will, for Clara, Charlie and their future generations.