Saturday, January 30, 2010

Push-up Suckers and Peace on Earth


Note: This originally appeared in the Oklahoma Main Street blog in early December 2008.

A framed photo arrived the other day in the mail. From Philadephia. A thank you note was tucked inside. The photo captured just a fleeting moment of all of our lives. Yet, as I looked at it, the meaning behind the photo spoke volumes.

Taken on November 7, 2008, the photo doesn’t capture the very windy, very cold day. What it does show is a static view of warmth and fellowship.

As part of the Eisenhower Fellowship exchange program, a group came through Oklahoma City. Created in 1953 as a birthday present for President Eisenhower, this is a global leadership network based on trust and shared experiences. There was Leigh, the coordinator, who lives in Philadelphia. Gema from Mexico. Felipe from Brazil. Maria from Chile. Gustavo from Peru. Except for one in the group, all of these very well educated, incredibly experienced, well traveled professionals were making their first trip ever to Oklahoma City and Oklahoma. As part of their study program to learn about citizens who are involved making community decisions, we headed over to the Plaza District, an urban Main Street program along a short stretch of N.W. 16th Street. Our guides, Main Streeters Kristin, Aimee, and Jeff, talked with the group before walking us down the street to visit an artisan fabric shop, a rehabilitated movie theater, and other businesses.

At the last stop, Curiosidades Guatemala Store that has a Guatemalan restaurant included, the group livened. Maria, a mother of six, was able to buy two authentic Guatemalan dolls to add to her collection. Guatemalan dolls—from her trip to Oklahoma City! In the meantime, Gema found a treat from her home country, Recargado Reloaded Mexican Candy. Excitedly, she bought one of these spicy push up suckers (as best as I can describe it) for each of us. “You must try this. It is the best.” Trustingly, we all popped the tops, pushed up, and licked this spicy chili flavored candy. The wind blew our hair and blew away our guards. We forgot professional credentials and all matters of serious concerns. We began to talk about our childhoods.

For this moment, as our tongues burned with spice and our minds yearned for an international exchange, we found the overwhelming power of common humanity—to learn, to grow, to share, to laugh. No national borders. No political barriers. No language barriers. Just a handful of people who met that morning and shared spicy push-up suckers.

The photo of our group on this corner of N.W. 16th Street and Indiana Avenue led me to these thoughts: “What if we all dropped our guards and really tried to learn about those around us? What if we were all so open and trusting to try something new offered by someone new? What if we were open to the possibilities that we used to dream about when sharing candy with our childhood friends? What if we turned to laughter and smiles to create shared experiences?”

On this brisk, windy morning we found the warmth of new fellowships, just as President Eisenhower envisioned over 50 years earlier. On this corner of a country facing major issues in a world with even bigger challenges, I saw what “Peace on Earth” is all about.

1 comment:

  1. Very well said Ron - I can almost taste the spicy candy and delve into dreams not yet realized but anticipated.