The saying, “I love a parade,” was not meant for me. I’m not a big fan of parades. Sorry, that’s not completely honest. I hate parades. And I have for as long as I can remember. My disdain for parades wasn’t helped by the fact that for a number of years I worked for the Rose Bowl Parade’s public relations agency. So, parades, which I already hated, became associated with work. Parades never stood a chance.
Therefore, it was somewhat surprising that I found myself walking in my town’s community Memorial Day Parade with my son this morning. I agreed to walk in the festivities because 1) I thought the kid would enjoy it, and 2) I was walking in support of the local school foundation, with which I’ve become deeply involved. In this case, activism trumped apathy.
As I handed out candy and dog treats to the people and dogs lining the route, I couldn’t help but notice the movie-set feel of the whole experience. Little kids were out in force waving American flags. Other kids from local schools and organizations like the Girls Scouts, 4H, the local Tae Kwon Do academy performed rehearsed routines. I could have been walking in the Grady Fourth of July Parade in the movie “Doc Hollywood.” I saw so many familiar faces. Everything slowed down. I was walking in a script.
And, I was somewhat overwhelmed.
The smiles. The laughter. Pure joy. For the one-and-a-half hours that we slowly walked from point A to point B, there wasn’t a care in the world. We all need to be able to escape like that. We need a reminder that, yes, we can all just get along. There’s so much hate in the world – even in small towns like mine. But today? There wasn’t a single disparaging word (that I heard).
Instead, the entire community was out to celebrate each other and, although no veterans walk the parade, those who served and sacrificed their lives. (Our town is, for the most part, crazy liberal. I was told that because of the overwhelming peacenik feelings and vocal demonstrations in these parts, the local veterans association has long refused to walk in the parade. It’s too bad.)
The closest experience I can associate to the feelings I had this morning would be finishing a (running) race. People are cheering. Those lining the race route are shouting encouragement, making sure you’re hydrated and handing out high fives to any and all takers.
Such moments like the races and the parade are comprised of pure humanity. No ideologies separate us from the person in front of us or next to us. And when we’re surrounded by pure humanity…the experience is incredibly uplifting. And that’s how the parade felt. Uplifting.
I feel like such experiences are so few and far between. I suppose I could run more races to gain that uplifted by humanity feeling more often. But those races aren’t usually in my hometown, in my own community. There was something different today. I experienced this kind of euphoria on the streets that I walk and run nearly every single day. For me, it changes everything. I now know what my community is truly capable of and I now know what kind of experiences these streets are capable of delivering. And I want more of it.
When I wrote that 2012 would be The Year of the Experience, I never fathomed it would include walking in a small town parade. I was thinking hikes, travels and adventures. And, while I discover so much about myself on those adventures, today I also discovered something important. I discovered a collective spirit. I discovered community. I discovered humanity.
And I discovered that I love a parade.