I just got home from a whirlwind trip around Europe. That sounds rather glamorous, doesn’t it? We had our moments, but the camper-sized bathroom in our Paris apartment kept me humble with girls camp flashbacks. But really, the vacation was a wonderful experience.
My husband and I took our daughter, Jane, who just graduated high school. She saved her shekels for a long time for this trip. My mom joined us to make an even four. We had a wonderful time together! We learned a lot about history and architecture. Jane’s knowledge gained from her recent AP European History class really fed us all the facts we needed along the way.
But there was something I learned that even a fancy AP high school class couldn’t teach me. I guess Disney said it best: “It’s A Small World, After All!”
We met SO many people and made so many new friends, that I realized the true grandeur of this world is its people.
In Paris, I met up with a friend that has been connected with me via social media for years. I cried when we finally hugged in person.
Also in Paris, we made friends with a lovely couple from San Jose, CA in the line for our evening concert at the Sainte-Chapelle. Later that evening, another couple seated next to us asked us to take their picture. As we talked, we mentioned that Jane is heading to BYU in the fall. That’s when they exclaimed, “We’re LDS too!” And as we talked, we made a hundred connections. “Oh, I’ve met your son-in-law. I just read an article about your daughter.” And then I realized that I had seen a video the church made about him years ago, as part of the ‘I’m a Mormon’ campaign. The church had made one about me, too! We laughed at all our similarities and eventually got kicked out of the Sainte-Chapelle for loitering too late after the concert.
One day, my mom and I were approached by three lovely ladies. One said, “You’re nice, aren’t you? My mother thinks people will be rude, but you look nice. Would you take our picture?” We laughed and of course agreed to snap the photo. We then had a lovely conversation with them for a good 20 minutes. They were two daughters taking their mother to Europe for her 75th birthday. As we left, I said to Mom, “Do you ever just feel a connection with people as though you’ve known them forever?” With tears in her eyes, mom agreed and with a cracking voice said that the older woman had turned to her saying, “I never thought I’d see these beautiful sights. It’s a gift from God.” My mom felt the same way and said to me, “She is black and we grew up in the same turbulent times, but she had a completely different life experience than I did as a naïve white girl in Idaho. But here we are, both in our 70’s in beautiful Paris, praising God for our blessings.”
In Austria, we ran into a family that was sporting gear from my alma mater. As I chatted with them, I started to make connections. I realized that their father was the son of my boss in college! Oh, how I had loved her. I was able to tell him of all the great times we had 25 years ago, and he told me she passed away last year. It really meant a lot to him that I was able to praise and honor her with him in the middle of a busy square in Salzburg.
In Switzerland, my husband dropped by a little hotel we stayed in years ago. He was able to connect with the lovely concierge there and she remembered us! She had thought we were on our honeymoon, but we had been celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary!
These experiences happened again and again. We made so many friends, not just Americans, but kind and lovely Europeans and Asians, too. The world is full of so much goodness, that when the beauty of the mountains and flowers fade away and the stunning architecture crumbles, the best thing we have as children of God is each other.
We don’t need to travel to see this. His children are all around us and all we have to do is open our mouths and connect to them!