There is a special pleasure that comes when you take a long-held desire and start to make it real in the world, when you truly start to steer the boat of your life and, move, in a combination of conscious choice and following the deepest part of your gut, in the direction of your dreams.
These visions need not be of specific activities, of destinations to visit, of foods to eat, or mountains to climb. Rather they can be of a life lived deliberately and momentarily, animated by the layers and memories of past experiences, inspired by future directions, yet all the while sitting deliciously in the present.
At moments like this, and they are often, if not always, fleeting, you have flashes of perspective and wisdom, and find yourself filled with an almost delirious joy in which your body can scarcely contain what is bursting inside of you.
The spark for me was making plans to travel to Rio de Janeiro in October for a global investigative journalism conference, and, about 10 days later, to travel to Buenos Aires in Argentina to spend time with Dad and Lee, see journalist friend Jenny Manrique and visit with colleagues from La Nacion.
Every day that we’re in Chile, a country Dunreith and I hungered to visit for more than a decade, I feel at different points that we are living out a dream.
Going to other countries within the continent, meeting colleagues and friends and making new connections there, gathering around the venerable task of bringing the truth to light, will be fulfilling another.
Today’s thrill came from many sources.
It came from anticipating the adventures we will have.
It came from realizing anew what we can create when we dip out of routines, think hard about what we will want to have done, and move in that direction.
And it came from from a deepening, solidifying feeling that we can trust ourselves to live from that place.
At times like this, I almost cannot believe my great and good fortune in being alive, on the planet, in good health, in sharing a life and a son with a woman I love deeply, powerfully connected to family and friends and people of good will, engaged in work that matters and that is a source of challenge, satisfaction, wonder and meaning, participating in a program I applied for four times over the course of more than a dozen years, speaking another language with increasing comfort and dexterity, without a home address, free and full in the world.
Indeed, at these moments, I am grateful beyond expression that I am even around to write these very words.
In the late 1930s, in Germany, the country of his birth, my father was slated for death at the hands of genocidal government that defined Dad and all others like him by our religion.
Yet, thanks to the initiative and courage of his parents, the generosity of an unknown Gentile doctor who agreed to remove Dad’s appendix on his grandfather’s kitchen table after many others in the town where our family had lived for more than 150 years had refused, and the kindness of an eccentric Jewish headmistress who cared for Dad as if he were her own boy, he survived.
Last year, we returned as a family to Essen, the town that Dad had not set foot in since fleeing to join his brother in England just weeks after the emergency surgery.
Leaders, children, and adults of all ages showered him with gifts and gratitude for making the journey and providing an answer to the story of what happened to the children who left on trains, numbers around their neck.
In the former synagogue that was destroyed in the pogrom that sparked the creation of the program that saved him, Dad rose and spoke and told the crowd of hundreds that Germany was both the country that was the site of some of the worst atrocities in human history and one of the countries that had done more than any other to face and seek to atone for its wrongdoing.
He also said that, rather than accept the honorarium he had been offered, we as a family were creating an award in our family’s name to honor young people who act for tolerance and justice.
This June, shortly before leaving for Chile, Dad, Lee and I returned so that he could, for the first time, present the awards to the children who had earned that recognition.
On a snowy President’s Day in 1986, the car Mom was in skidded over the center line and swerved into the path of an oncoming car with a snow plough attached to the front.
The seat belt saved her life.
The only reason the paramedics who found Mom gave her even a 1 percent chance of living was that they were already out on the road because of other accidents, heard the crash and arrived almost instantly.
At the time, I couldn’t allow myself to fully face the possibility that Mom might die.
In many ways, it was a miracle that she did not.
That she did not is because of the people who did not know Mom, but were doing their duty and brought her to safety, and because of a dedicated team of doctors, nurses, assistants, attendants, therapists and others helped her body back to health.
Our family visited her daily.
Mom’s formidable will to heal propelled her, too.
The process was achingly slow, and sometimes moved backward.
But Mom never gave up.
About two weeks, she celebrated her 76th birthday, aided by Jon, who traveled out to meet and help her, holding Mike’s son Matthew as he squirmed, enveloped by the love of Mike and Annie and her parents in person, and from Dunreith, Aidan and me at a distance.
This morning, after looking into and booking flights and hotels and conference, sitting next to Dunreith, our adventures advanced, the day ahead, the son of a father who was not supposed to live and a mother who nearly died, both of whom have survived to experience inconceivable and unexpected joy, I felt deep-down blessed in a way that I rarely have before.
Not religious blessed.
But spirit blessed.
I hope you have moments where you feel it, too.