An American in Paris

20140526-070916-25756076.jpgI have spent the better half of last week in Paris. I have toured, I have eaten my share of croissants, I have sipped wine and have walked miles and miles each day. During this time I have seen many sights, and have gained a bit of perspective as one often does when on vacation, only to have it vanish once the routine of life begins again. Three moments stick out most.

1. Tolerance and the shrinking world
The group we shared our week and meals with consisted of people from France, Morocco, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, India, and Sweden. There were times when we laughed until we cried as we eagerly absorbed the personality of Paris and enjoyed the diversity of each other. At our last dinner my husband and I were invited to visit Dubai and during this conversation the tone took a more serious tone.

It has been within our generation that the world has become smaller. Technological advances in the form of Internet, air flight and increased tolerance is changing the world. One only has to listen or read the news to see evidence of this. Whether you travel or are connected through the internet, we are experiencing excitement and connection between people that never would have crossed paths one hundred years ago. The conversation we had that last night at dinner was sprinkled with hope. Hope that old prejudices and ideology will fall away. Hope that old stereotypes and negative views will be discarded.

It will be a different world in our grand-children’s lifetime and we may not be so defined by the land we live on and our perceived differences as we are by our similarities, our hopes and our dreams. Think about what we could accomplish if that came to be. One can only hope that tolerance for religion, human rights and individual freedoms will continue to spread until we all stand together. It was a very intense and interesting conversation indeed!

2. A love affair
Another experience in Paris was the love affair I found myself in. It was not only an affair of the heart for my husband or for Paris. No, the love affair I found myself in was one with my fellow Americans. We stick out like sore thumbs and there is nothing “ugly American” about it.

We see each other, strangers on a Parisian street, and recognize our kindred spirits. We smile, we greet each other warmly, we offer to help each other, and take each other’s picture. We are courageous in the way we show ourselves, answering questions with directness and honesty and laughing at ourselves when we need to. We are alive and free and happy. I am proud to be an American.

3. The Face of God
Notre Dame is beautiful, and the architecture is stunning both inside and out. The intricate carvings on the outside of the church depict scenes from the bible, detailed sculptures that were designed to communicate to the illiterate. Images of judgement day, angels and demons look down upon gawking tourists. You can get lost in prayer in Notre Dame or just be overwhelmed by the beauty of it all.

This, however is not what touched me most. When walking around the church we saw several nuns. One was even whispering on her cell phone! One nun turned towards me as she was speaking to another. The light in her eyes and the smile on her face was otherworldly. She was glowing, so full of grace and joy that one could imagine that only sheer contentment or the grace of God was shining in her very being. I feel blessed to have seen her within Notre Dame.

I am sipping my American coffee as I write this, happy to be home and with my children once again. My husband and I had a wonderful week. I am going to try to see sights like these at home, because I believe the ones that matter most represent an appreciation for life.

One only has to open their eyes and look.

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