Several times in my life, after thinking that I know something or understand something, I’ll have an experience that leads me to the realization that, actually, I didn’t know what I thought I did. It took the experience itself for me to truly know and understand. A good example of that would be postpartum depression. I’d been busily helping women who suffered postpartum depression for years, thinking that between my education and training and work experience, I knew all about it. And I was, in many cases, very helpful. Then, after my first child was born, I had serious postpartum depression that lasted about 5 weeks. Those five weeks in hell brought true understanding.
Now, I’m not saying that a person has to experience something to understand it or have compassion around it. I don’t believe that’s true. But I also believe that there are some paths in life that you really have to walk down to understand the journey.
Tuesday evening, in a crowd of a quarter million people, I stood next to an African American woman about my age. With so many people, the jumbotron CNN, the stage, the motorcade, the helicopters, the Chicago skyline lit in red, white and blue, and, ultimately, Barack Obama himself, there was a lot to watch in Grant Park. Mostly, I watched her. I couldn’t help it. She was there on her own, no sign or little flag or funny hat; she was just there standing next to me on a knoll above the field. We had an incredible view. She first came to life when CNN called Ohio. She smiled and clapped a bit. When they called Florida she laughed out loud and raised her arms. When they announced the victory for Obama, she yipped and spontaneously grabbed ahold of me and we hugged like the very best of friends. We couldn’t stop hugging. She kept saying, “never in my life, never in my life.” Across the field, we could see the motorcade coming along Lakeshore Drive and as the loudspeakers pumped “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” we ALL danced. During the invocation she bowed her head and teared up a bit. When we said the Pledge of Allegiance, she and I chuckled because the bouncy, bubbly, squealy first time voters behind us didn’t know some of the words. She applauded the gracious concession of John McCain. And when Barack Obama spoke, she wept silently. Her shoulders heaved and tears streamed down her face and she covered her mouth and she wept. As I watched her I realized that, try as I might, I will never truly understand.
It was a great event, a once in a life time event, a history changing moment. You’ve heard all about it. I kind of think you had to be there to realize the true momentum. I went with my neighbor Larry, while his wife, Donna, and Rich stayed home with the television contingent. With only my ticket plus one, Larry and I were the two that couldn’t bear the thought of not going. Larry took some amazing photos that, really, speak a thousand good words, so here you go. (they’re great large so definitely click to embiggen; please don’t copy)