I spent seven days with my first daughter in Atlanta as she competed in photography at the National Leadership and Skills Conference for SkillsUSA. Besides the almost 40 hours we traveled on a charter bus, I had time to think, read and write as my daughter’s photography competition ended up being two full days.
This post will be a collection of thoughts I wrote down. Be warned, I’m not sure how organized this post will be… but it will be centered on us…
There were about 6,500 students, high school and college, competing in over a 100 different trade, technical and leadership fields in Atlanta. It was amazing to see the scope of talent during the week. I had time on my hands so I walked to other areas to see the competitions. Everyone was a state champion, so the final results were incredible. To name a few of the fields, there was cabinet making, culinary, nursing, and also cool areas like urban search and rescue.
Sometimes we forget how vast our world is. There are so many careers for us to pursue. So many ways to express our talents. I was humbled by the skills the students displayed during the competition.
But I was also amazed at the character of the students and sponsors I met during the week. One of the fun activities during nationals is to collect state pins. I didn’t get extra Nebraska pins, so my pin game was a little rough, but I got some cool pins and met some great people by exchanging or trading pins. It gave us all a common experience to build a connection through.
That common experience is a powerful element to building a community. And a strong community looks out for each other. I witnessed so many small moments of this, of people just helping others. For many of the contests students would have to bring their own tools, or visual aids or make-up supplies. Someone was always willing to lend a hand, or give directions, or rush to hold a door. I would see contestants console or celebrate with another competitor. And in doing so I saw how we could be as a society. Even the staff at the different locations, but especially at the Georgia World Congress Center were a part of the community. Honestly, it took 12 minutes for my daughter and I to walk to her competition area each day. We got to know a few of the staff at the different checkpoints because we stopped and said hello every morning then goodbye at the end of the day. They would ask how the day went, but the best moment was on the last day when they asked to see my daughter’s work. They made her smile with their comments about her pictures. But we also learned a little about them. We learned about the significance of a necklace one of the staff members wore each day. Where another staff member got her cool boots. For just a little while we were a community.
Our nation is divided right now. It is hard to believe that we can be one nation anytime soon, but for a week I saw how we could be. Yes, I understand it was a unique situation, but isn’t our life a unique situation? Can’t we be respectful, helpful, and friendly to each other? Yes, yes, we can…
This is not really a poem, but this is something I had jotted down late Thursday afternoon while I waited for my daughter to complete her debriefing.
We all like a good meal, we just have different favorite dishes.
We all jam out to good music, we just have a different favorite song.
We all want to be seen, we just choose different ways to gain your attention.
We all want to be loved, we just have different ways that we show it.
We all want to look good, we just have different styles.
We all feel pain, we just have different stories that tell of our heartache.
We all have a passion, we just let it shine in different ways.
We all give our lives to something, we just have different things we believe in.
Maybe someday we all can believe in us…