One of the most influential segments of my life was the 8 years I spent in the army. Most of my time was enlightening, especially being overseas, and some of it was purely useless. Still, I wouldn’t trade the experience for a million dollars…2 million maybe, but not a million. I originally planned to spend my 4 years in, collect my college fund, then get out. That was the plan. Plans change.
I spent a half a year at Fort Leonard Wood going through basic training and advanced training. Then I went to Fort Benning for a couple months before being assigned to Fort Bragg for a year. After that, I went to Germany and loved it so much I kept extending. Good food, good beer, and good travels. I was able to see most of Europe, at least the free part. The communist wall came down while I was there and that was remarkable. Then I went to Desert Storm and finished my military time.
When communism fell, the rest of Europe was literally transformed overnight. I used to like to fly down the autobahn at about 120 miles per hour. I thought I was pretty cool until I would see the flashing headlights in my rear view mirror. I would quickly get out of the left lane and let the car pass. All my coolness would slip away as I would watch the Porsche fly by at 150 or more until I couldn’t even see the taillights.
After the wall came down, all kinds of vehicles were driving west and they could barely go 30 miles per hour because they were loaded with people and stuff. I swear, I even saw a little Yugo so piled up that a granny was riding a rocking chair on top of the pile…or maybe I’m confusing my memory with The Beverly Hillbillies, but either way, the autobahn slowed way down. I think the only fast thing about their exodus was getting packed, these people wasted no time to get to freedom.
One day we were in a particularly slow slowdown when we were getting close to our exit. I was driving in the furthest right lane yet there were even slower vehicles driving on the shoulder. It was frustrating to be in traffic like this and I was getting cranky. We came to a temporary stop next to one of these vehicles on the shoulder who was also at a stop. We looked at them and they looked at us. Then I saw their kids waving and smiling. I turned around and saw my kids waving and smiling. All of us adults just kind of smiled at each other before we began to move again. My crankiness was gone.
Moral of this story? All these kids, theirs and mine, saw nothing but wonder at the sight of each other. Us adults probably only felt stress up until that point. The fact that all of us smiled at the sight of our kids waving and smiling at each other says we all realized something bigger was happening, all born from the innocence of children. They could feel each other’s joy and held nothing back in sharing it. That is what our world needs.