NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Thursday, March 28th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Kim Henderson now on one of those moments in life when you understand something bigger than what’s right in front of you.
KIM HENDERSON, COMMENTATOR: The emotion surprised me, the one that had us feeling like outsiders in our own national parks. It was a recognition that hit us early in our “Out West” itinerary—like at the car rental counter—when we got to know a guy from Albania.
The trend continued in West Yellowstone with an introduction to a Ukrainian maker of Subway sandwiches and a Slovenian who served up excellent pancakes, but I don’t want to give the impression that all the non-nationals we met were here to work. No, most we saw were wagging backpacks and expensive camera equipment, doing all the touristy stuff you’d expect someone to do that has the time and money to cross oceans – as in the case of our new friends, Andre and Genevieve.
We picnicked beside this charming couple in magnificent Grand Teton National Park, where the kids pressed me to make good on two years of college French. Genevieve even gave me her card and suggested emailing as a way of improving my language skills.
Later that week we experienced more of the same, though hundreds of miles away. Sunset at the south rim of the Grand Canyon (Mather Point, if you know your parks) would take more than my tool box of adjectives to adequately describe, and the crowd that clung to the railing was also worth a watch.
“Yes, it’s a very big mountain,” I heard one Londoner answer her child. An Asian preschooler posed in a Batman shirt. A woman’s sari brushed beside me, and European campers wearing hiking boots and the scent of long days came close, too.
As the horizon began to turn pink, then blue, snapshots surged. Occasionally I would offer to do the honors in exchange for learning a country of origin, and the bolder I became, the longer my list grew. Italy, China, Spain, India, Brazil, Scotland, Ecuador, Poland, Denmark, Japan. No wonder the signage displayed at the park is pictorial.
One sign, though, must have had them puzzled. It bore no pictures, just these words: “This area has been set aside for individuals or groups exercising their Constitutional First Amendment Rights.” Which explains my husband’s “whoops” at Mather Point.
“What do you mean, ‘whoops’?” I asked him, hoping he hadn’t dropped anything important over the ledge.
“Just exercised my first amendment rights,” he answered with a defiant smile. “Said a prayer right over there, and it wasn’t even a designated area.”
As dusk fell and foreign voices trickled across the way, we guessed at them, my linguistics partner and me. Spanish, Mandarin, Dutch? Then he dared to exercise his rights again, bringing up words from Revelation about a someday crowd – much like this one – with folks from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues.
“Just like heaven,” he whispered close to my ear.
I heard him plain. And the grandness of it all echoed—clear across the canyon.
For WORLD Radio, I’m Kim Henderson.