I’m going to show my age with this next question. Have you ever lost a picture?
When my sister and I were kids, we took a trip across the country that impacted our worldview for the rest of our lives. My favorite moment from that trip was captured in a photograph. When I tried to track it down, I discovered that the image is nowhere to be found. It was taken in the age of film, when clouds were something you stared up at from a blanket on the grass. The thought of losing that picture brought tears to my eyes. And then I realized that the thing I was emotional about wasn’t the picture.
The tears in my eyes were tied to a memory. The memory of two little girls who realized that their lives weren’t limited by lines on a map or lessons in a book.
With the picture hidden in the dark corner of a storage unit somewhere and the film long gone, all I’m left to share with you is a memory. When I close my eyes, I can see it clearly: two girls, the smaller one with straight, brown hair, the older one with dark, frizzy curls, both wearing puffy 80’s winter coats, standing together on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
Before our parents snapped the photo, I remember staring up at the massive structure, overwhelmed by the magnitude of the words etched on its walls. I didn’t understand what they meant in the grand scheme of our nation’s history, but I felt the power behind the words. Even with the cold air biting my face, I couldn’t tear my eyes away from those walls. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the figure of Lincoln, seated thoughtfully, watching me as I tried to wrap my mind around his words.
That moment sparked something inside of me that still shapes my life today.
Standing in the shadows of Lincoln’s watchful eye, a tiny flame came to life in the back of my mind. From that point forward, the most impactful decisions in my life were extensions of that moment. What started as a spark became a flame that lit the way to each turning point in my life.