My friend Bob and I were sitting on the bleachers just outside the racquetball court and trying to catch our breath between games. A group of race-running, soccer-ball kicking, tricycle-riding, and twirling-dancing preschool children spread out across the basketball court set the air abuzz with an energy I envy and filled the gym with squeals and laughter.
Several brave and curious children came near us and looked at us as if we were bears in a zoo.
I grew up in metropolitan Atlanta in the 1960s and 1970s. (I graduated from a high school in south Fulton County in 1975.) Atlanta was, of course, the hometown of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. So, when I was in elementary school, news about his work, about the hopes it inspired, and about the controversies it generated was “local news.” I often heard snippets of his sermons and speeches on television; they lodged in my mind and heart alongside the songs we sang in Sunday School
I recently spent a couple of hours at the DMV; it was time to renew my driver’s license. The place was crowded with, in the words of the old prayerbook, “all sorts and conditions” of people. It was a multiracial and multigenerational melting pot. Around me, people were speaking in a variety of languages, including that version of English I associate with New Jersey. (It really is a different language, I think!) Every imaginable style of dress and undress was on display. People had done things with their hair I didn’t know could be done. Almost all of us were talking or texting or e-mailing on our smartphones.
Here’s a paradox about human nature: we look for home in a world where we never feel fully and restfully at home. That paradox explains why even the most settled and contented people have moments when they wonder if they will ever arrive where they most want to be.