Friday, June 26, 2009

Sunflower Journeys


Nina (that's me) with my four grandchildren, Marcy, Beth, Zack and Alli, riding around in B-dazle, my art car, planning our Sunflower Journeys

With every journey I take, there is a gift awaiting me. Sometimes it does not present itself immediately: I must be patient for many weeks. But it is always there. I wait, and then with outstretched hands it says, "This is what you came to learn; this is your answer."

As you would expect, each pilgrimage has a different cast of characters, each with something to give and receive. So it was with the Sunflower Journeys, as my grandchildren and I decided to call them. It was my wish to take each grandchild on an individual cultural journey. Each had the freedom to choose any destination for his or her trip. But each also had to agree to three stipulations. The trip had to be one that stimulated them both physically and mentally; it had to be to a place where they learned the ways of a different culture; and, they had to be kind to everyone they met along the way, whether fellow passengers or natives of the new land they were visiting.

Marcy in Italy

Tourists from the United States are not always kind or respectful of the people from other cultures. Our reputation as world travelers is very poor. If every American who visited another country were tolerant and respectful of the natives, I think we could make many people in other countries have a better opinion of us.

Beth in Mexico

I believe in “conservation of emotional momentum,” an idea that requires a little explanation. Have you ever seen Newton’s Pendulum? That’s the name given to those little executive desktop decorations with five identical, solid metal balls hanging from a frame. Each ball is at the same height, and each is suspended from two strings of identical length. If you lift the ball on one end and release it, it strikes the ball next in line to it. The momentum of the first ball is transmitted almost perfectly through the line of balls so that the one on the opposite end of the line is propelled up to nearly the same height as that to which you lifted the first ball. When this ball falls back and strikes the ball next in line to it, the momentum of this ball is transferred back through the line of balls so that the first is propelled back to nearly the same height to which you originally lifted it. Well, I think something similar happens when we are kind to other people. When you are kind to someone, I think that kindness is often transmitted by the recipient to someone else who then passes it along to yet someone else, and so on. Unlike the balls in Newton’s Pendulum, of course, the “emotional momentum” is seldom transmitted back to the person who began it, but so what? In Newton’s Pendulum, the balls also stop eventually because gravity and friction sap little bits of energy with each collision.

Zack in Greece

“Emotional momentum” is not subject to gravity or friction, and I think maybe it can carry on unchecked forever. Maybe it comes back to you someday, or maybe to one of your descendants, or maybe to someone unknown and unrelated to you – someone who is your brother or sister nevertheless. And I think unkindness may be transmitted the same way. How much better the world could be if we would always opt for kindness and never for its opposite.

Alli in France

It was my intention to make sure that my grandchildren and I did all we could to encourage “conservation of kindness” -- and I think we did. I was able to take each child to a different country and we all came back with a wealth of treasures: lessons learned that I hope will last each of them a lifetime. I know they will for me.

Even though I may sound like the typical grandmother bragging about her trips with her grandchildren, I think you will find our excursions a bit different-not at all like those summer vacations many of us remember. Each trip was extraordinary, filled with mystery and surprise and in some cases charged with tremendous energy. I hope that you will bear with me over the next week as I tell the tales of the four Sunflower Journeys.

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1 comment:

  1. Sunflower journeys! What a wonderful idea and example they are to all of us. Thank you for such inspiration. This isn't just a grandmother story; this is a story about how to have adventures. Your readers may not have four grandchildren or hopes of seeing Italy, but we can enjoy your travels vicarously and make the most of what we can do with what we have. You are a joyful presence in the world and your energy enthuses us to better visions. (Spell Check is not going to like the word enthuse. You know me, though, and my word adventures). Thank you!


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