Just heading home from a week-long trip to the east coast, and I’ve been thinking about the idea of sanctuaries. I looked up the definition and it reads “a sacred or holy place” or “any place of refuge; asylum” and I couldn’t help but feel that this trip was a great journey to many sanctuaries.
The first stop on my trip was NYC. I always knew that I would love this city, long before I ever stepped foot on its dirty paved sidewalks. NYC is the most energized place I’ve ever been. Breathing the air of the Big Apple is like slamming several energy drinks at once…without the sugar overload. It gets in your veins and you can’t help but feel the buzz of cars, subways, neon lights and millions of pedestrians moving through the corridors of the borroughs.
On this particular trip, I visited a sacred New York location for the first time…Madison Square Garden. It is no doubt the sanctuary for diehard Knicks fans and many New Yorkers like my friend Jamey, who saw their first rock concert at “the Garden” and knew their life would never be the same again. I was duly impressed by the Garden, even though it seemed smaller in person than I had imagined. But after watching Pearl Jam perform for 3 hours with nothing less than the explosive energy a city like New York demands, Madison Square Garden was massive…full of thousands singing and rocking to tunes that flooded my mind with memories of my youth. I can definitely appreciate why some would come to the garden for refuge.
After NYC, I took a great train ride from Penn Station to Union Station in Washington D.C. to spend the weekend with my cousins who live in southern Maryland.
When I was in my late 20’s I had a revelation that I had a personal sanctuary and almost didn’t realize it until too late. For years, I grew up spending summer vacations at my grandparent’s house in upstate New York. As a young professional, I was fortunate to spend several days a year (while attending graduate school at Syracuse University) with my grandmother. Her home was my sacred place, the place I could go to feel loved and supported, and where I could find total and absolute peace. It was a country home that my grandparents built. Cell phone signals were spotty and there was little distraction except the occasional car passing by, over the creek near the house. I always knew I could relax when I went to Grandma’s and I could take a mental break from the chaos of life. When my grandmother passed away in 2004, I thought I was losing this sacred place, and that I could never come back to this home that had been a refuge for me for so long.
You may be wondering what this has to do with my recent trip. I share because I realized during this weekend that I have a new sanctuary, a new place where I go to totally and completely unwind. It is my cousin Shawn and Sherri’s home in Maryland. They have a beautiful house that shows their tender loving care but more importantly they have two great kids and the coolest cat and dog who always make me smile.
I spend hours lounging on the back porch, curled up with a great book, watching and listening to gobs of birds sing and flit around the back year. It’s ridiculously relaxing! The bonus is that I get to have wonderful memories filled with laughter and joy. The biggest “Ah, Ha!” of this trip is I realized that the sanctuary at my grandmother’s home wasn’t so much about the bricks and mortar of the house but the wonderful time spent with her. I’m so thankful to have a place now like my cousins’ house where I do get to combine a peaceful place with loving family.
So after two and half days of relaxation, I went to DC for work meetings. During which I made my very first visits with U.S. Congressmen on the hill. It was very exciting to walk the halls of our government sanctuary, the sacred place where many men and women serve our country. I know that politicians aren’t the most loved of professionals, mostly due to their own greed or struggles for power. But I was truly reminded of the very hard work they do in governing our nation. Whether it was talking to the cocky representative who said we weren’t doing enough to reach out to him (seems quite the opposite in my opinion) or the barely 20-something year old legislative correspondent (mail opener) who tried so hard to follow the conversation, I was inspired. Not sure that anyone can really take refuge in the halls of congress, but it really is a religious place where so many are passionate about their faith in government.
From this trip, I’ve learned there are so many different types of sanctuaries or places of refuge, all worthy and necessary. Whether it’s an energizing place that makes you feel totally alive like Madison Square Garden or a peaceful, family haven like my cousins’ home or a place that inspires you with its history and faith like the halls of the U.S. government, everyone has a sanctuary. Where’s yours?