The Importance of Real Connections
A few weekends ago I enjoyed the nice weather by taking my kayak down the Schuylkill River for a three-mile journey through the heart of Southeastern Pennsylvania. Winding down through Phoenixville towards Valley Forge, I relaxed and enjoyed seeing our local wildlife. When I reached Valley Forge, I discovered that I could paddle up an estuary and end at Washington’s headquarters. I realized that I was paddling in water that helped shape the Revolutionary War. I sat in my kayak, at a mere stone’s throw away from where George Washington helped plan, strategize, and implement a war that shaped the complexion of our country. I began to understand how important it is to venture out into the world and make “real connections.”
After paddling down to my pick-up point, I went home and researched Valley Forge more closely. It inspired me to brush up on my Valley Forge history and made me truly appreciate the history that is so rich in Chester County. These real connections can occur with another person, a historical artifact, or an experience. These real connections help to inspire us, shape our interests, and educate us. Had I not decided to go out and kayak that afternoon I may not have been as interested to read up on Washington’s headquarters and understand the importance of this location.
The importance of “real connections” is a lesson I’ve been learning over and over as I explore further and further into our world. I’ve seen a Holocaust Camp memorial in a quiet German town; I’ve walked to the top of the 750-year-old Cologne Cathedral; and I’ve seen the Greenwich Meridian Time’s beam of light shoot across the London sky. All of these experiences have embedded something as little as a fun fact or as large as an indelible mark on who I am and how I view the world.
Being a Social Studies teacher, history is something that obviously interests me. However, these “real connections” do not have to be historical. Venturing out of the house will offer you the chance to explore new avenues and areas of interest. Put yourself out there and meet someone new, share a story, or try a new activity.
My most recent reminder of this lesson was driving through Centralia, PA on my way to Bloomsburg with a coworker just last week. I only spent a minute in this nearly empty town north of Allentown as I passed through. It left us both with an itching curiosity to explore and learn about this location that has been plagued by a smoldering coal mine hundreds of feet beneath their homes, churches, and streets.
So don’t be afraid to put yourself out on a limb. Wander out into the world and see what you find. I know I frequently manage to find something that educates me, interests me, or ultimately shapes who I am.