Well, we made it on the first day. Don’t they say the first day is the hardest? Well, it is for the leader at least. You know that things will change. You know stuff will go wrong. You know at least one person will get stung by a bee. You know something didn’t get packed.
You know these thing will happen. It’s a youth trip. If something doesn’t go wrong its not as good. The stories aren’t as epic 3 years down the road when they’ve been told so many times that they are warped and instead of forgetting toilet paper on the trip and having to wipe with leaves, it ended up being that the kid wrapped themselves in toilet paper, got doused in honey and rolled in gravel and then the 3-legged, one-eyed bear came along and wanted to cuddle.
That’s a good story. Because it happened when something didn’t go as planned and everyone remembered that something happened that they can’t forget. Even if the thing they can’t forget isn’t real. It’s like magic. It’s still awesome and makes you feel happy when you talk about it.
Well, that’s enough being nostalgic. Here’s what happened.
We got to the church early. It was beautiful. Everyone was on time. In fact, they were early. Except for an adult. It happens. I don’t care. What I’m so proud of and impressed with is that all of my youth, as sleepy and excited and as groggy as they were, made it there with plenty of time! I was proud. I was a proud 3-legged, one-eyed mama bear.
We piled on and we made our way on the road. Unfortunately, our first stop didn’t quite happen. Well, we tried, but things were closed, roads were blocked, yadda, yadda, yadda.
Initially, we intended to stop in Ferguson, MO. One after one, our speakers who were slated to meet with us backed out. While we could have gone to Ferguson, it would have only been for an hour. And, as a white woman who enjoys the privileges of being such, I felt 100% inadequate to speak on such a topic. Also, passing by for such a short amount of time felt like we were just going to be gawkers, onlookers, tourists who peered through the windows of a bus or through our sunglasses; who were searching for the spot where it happened. Where racial tensions and the uproar of a nation took place. Where one young man was murdered by another young man.
To just go see felt wrong. It felt dirty. It felt like we were just looking at what happened as though it were a museum. That’s why we didn’t go. Because to not go, while we wanted to, was a more honest way of honoring the people who lived there and lived through the events. To not go was to be more honest.
But tomorrow we go to see another site of a murder in Memphis. We go to learn and be educated and to remember a movement and a man and all that he stood for. We remember the garbage workers and those who marched. And marched. Not because they wanted to, but because they had to. Tomorrow we go to be educated and to know that these things aren’t just on TV, but that they happened in real places. The hope is that instead of being gawkers, we can and will be honest learners. Going to the Lorraine Motel tomorrow is different than going to Ferguson to see. At least this time it was.
But that’s my opinion.
Instead, we headed to Cairo, IL (pronounced Kay-ro, like the syrup), where the evidence of a once prominent city stood falling apart and all but alive. On the backs of cities like this, was how larger cities like Chicago haveprospered.
One of our youth, taking it upon himself to do research, spoke eloquently, and with sheer interest, about the history of this once great city and the racial tensions that had festered there for so many generations.
This is part of what this trip is about. As a leader, it’s about hoping that something sparks an interest, something speaks to one of them and they think, “I should google that,” and then they do, and then from that, they give a short lecture that turns out to be one of the best parts of the day.
After stopping in what I can only describe as incredible heat and making sandwiches in paper towels, we hopped back onto the bus and headed for Memphis, home of the King. Elvis, that is. So, now, here we are, in a lovely air-conditioned church with plenty of space, showers, couches for the adults to snooze on, and free wifi. What more could you ask for?
We’re all safe, clean, we’ve worshipped, gotten a bee sting, played some basketball, eaten a lot of granola bars, imparted some wisdom onto the youth of America (and Canada); and now I find myself sitting on an oversized couch in the dark, as some of the girls pretend to be asleep but they are really talking because they are bad at whispering, and one of the boys sings from the hallway. Things got a little wonky, but we all hung in there with smiles and we came out clean on the other side. I might have gotten a bit of a lecture on how to use snap chat. But that’s besides the point.
All is well. Everyone is tucked in and happy with bellies full from regular, gluten free, and cheese-less pizza, cookies, fruit, and lots of water. Tomorrow beings new adventures, another from our group joins us, and another bus ride with our awesome bus driver, Dewey.
Three cheers for Dewey. The man who kept us safe on the drive and made sure that we didn’t fall when stepping off of the bus steps.
It’s the little things that matter the most.