Today, I am wistful, and perhaps even a bit envious. I can’t stop thinking about Lorrie and Gregg Granger, who live near my town and were featured in yesterday’s Grand Rapids Press. Like me, they have three kids, although two of theirs are girls, while at our house, I am the only one concerned about estrogen.
The Grangers were featured not because their kids won a trophy or scholarship to a prestigious university, and not because they built a fancy house or started a million-dollar company (although they could have done all of these, I have no idea.) Instead, they were featured because they took a plunge that most of us (okay, I mean me) will only ever dream about: rather than leaving their kids with stock portfolios or real estate, they decided to leave them with an incredibly unique experience and extraordinary memories. Four and a half years ago, with little seafaring experience, the Grangers liquidated their funds, packed up the troops, bought a 54-foot sailboat, and went out to see the world. At the time, their kids were about 6, 12, and 16. Tom Rademacher, who wrote about their adventures in his column, says that “they cavorted with Polynesian dancers, hiked the Marquesas, feasted on grubs and crickets in Thailand, surfed the coast of Australia and rode elephants in Sri Lanka.” I can’t say I miss trying the grubs and crickets, but the rest of it is magic to me. Wonder. Excitement. Life.
Exploring other cultures—even within our own country—has drawn me for as long as I can remember. Understanding the similarities and differences between people fascinates me, attracts me, pulls me like few other experiences do. I absolutely love the idea of taking everyone away from the daily drill. For some, just the thought of pulling their kids out of sports and schools and clubs is intolerable. But for me, it’s inspiring and I love the thought of being together, seeing new places, and teaching the kids that this is how people live and interact. As kids get older, so much of what influences them is peer-driven, and so much of what they think about themselves is a mirror of what their peers think. How much more the Grangers gave their kids, when they took them to see that life isn’t about who has what, or wears what, or is best at everything, but about how we all relate to one another.
I know that there are throngs of people who will disagree with me, who will say, "Buck up and get back in the real world, lady." They might discover that I have always loved the idea of being Nim, on her island, and mock me for it. They will remind me that Nim and her island are fictitious, as are the life lessons she learned—complete figments of Wendy Orr’s imagination. But the Granger's are not. And now I know their story. I can share it, and counter that the Grangers are very real, a figment of no one’s imagination, and the lessons they learned from their trip are equally authentic. When asked what she took from the trip, the Grangers’ oldest daughter, Emily, remarked, “Never judge people by their race, religion, color. We’re all in this together.”
And that’s a lesson that’s hard to argue with.