By Sandy Geary
With children scattered throughout the country, we travel frequently. Until this year, we made our yearly trip to the family get-together in Wisconsin by car. The long drive was made lengthier by road construction. This year we opted to go faster and easier – by plane.
Due to our age, last year we made frequent stops at highway rest areas. During one memorable overnight stop in Illinois, we met a great-grandmother with a granddaughter and a great-grandson in tow. We stopped to chat every time we saw them in the lobby. In a nearby restaurant later, she came to our table and took our check. She said, “I feel called to pay for your dinner. We keep seeing one another.” Her generosity stunned me.
By having spent so much time on the road and, lately, in airports, I feel safe in stating that Americans are not as divided as we have been portrayed. On the contrary, we are open to one another, gracious and friendly. At least the ones I’ve come across are that way and I’ve been in close proximity to many this past year.
The people I have met while far from home have offered me help and sympathy in some cases. Take, for example, the trip my husband and I made to Phoenix this past spring. While there with our 9-year-old granddaughter, my husband suffered a serious health problem that caused him to be hospitalized for three days. The staff at our hotel was very kind and let me extend our stay besides giving me a van ride to the hospital that first day. A fellow guest at the same hotel offered any assistance I would need when she learned of our crisis.
I read and hear about how divided our country is all the time but I did not see that during my travels. No one asked my politics or religion. We talked about things we have in common – our children, our responses to weather events, our hopes for a good vacation. We laughed together. No one argued. No one insisted their point of view was correct and mine erroneous. We all treated one another civilly, even in the close confines of the aircraft.
Americans prove their caring attitude whenever a national emergency occurs. Donations pour in for fire victims or those whose lives have been devastated by hurricanes, tornadoes or other weather events. Our citizens willingly donate to victims in other countries, too. When something happens to one, we are all affected.
Many times I have watched television news showing a stranger endangering his or her life to save another. When Houston was flooded last year, people from miles away came to save others by boat. One even lost his dog as he rescued strangers. Those stories are so touching, I am brought to tears. But I am never surprised, because I have met strangers who were willing to go out of their way for me.
Every day we put our trust in strangers. We trust them to follow the traffic laws as we drive our nation’s highways. I have trusted advice on a recommendation for a restaurant or a better route to take given by a person at a rest stop. And have never been disappointed.
I hope I’m right about our nation not being as divided as some pundits say. Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Let that not be what happens to our great country.
I want to see all of America continue to join together and stand, as it has always done, for kindness, openness, and generosity, the qualities that have made us great.
Sandy McPherson Carrubba Geary sees unity and concern in her travels.