Lessons for Clara is a weekly series of posts intended for the author’s daughter based on her travels and observations, showing that we really are shaped by the places we go, the people we meet, and the experiences we have.
We’re going on 6 months in our new home. I say new but it’s not really. We lived here for years before embarking on our adventures in diplomatic living but this assignment has brought us back to Washington, DC – headquarters, capitol city, and home.
In some ways, we feel just as much fish out of water as we would in any other country – we’ve been away for a while and we’ve forgotten all the things that go with living here in the US: the pace is faster, everything feels bigger, and there seems to be more of just about everything.
We’re only here for two years and soon this will be just another assignment, so I’m hoping that you take the following lessons from Washington with you:
- The freedom to say just about anything is a privilege… I always hope that you’ll know the ability to say freely what is on your mind, regardless of topic. That’s not always the case for many people still. In fact, if all of your grandparents hadn’t left in pursuit of that, we would have turned out very differently. This is one of the most valuable rights we have and it came right here from Washington. Be mindful of what a gift this is.
- …but just because you can say anything, doesn’t mean that you should. Speak your mind, but don’t do it in a way that can be hurtful to others, speak in a way that is informed, polite, and constructive. Speak loudly if you need to, but don’t speak rudely. If you’re going to make a statement, ask yourself, is this going to move the dial forward on something that is truly important to me?
- Participate in the democratic political process; it will be what you make it. We’re right in the middle of an election year and the ads are rolling, the pundits are talking, and sometimes, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the process. I know it will be tempting to think sometimes that one voice doesn’t matter, but I assure you it does. Much like the freedom to say anything, being able to participate in the political process is a valuable right and gift that others have worked hard for and one of the things that make this country so unique. Do not take it for granted.
- Reach across the aisle. There are often two opposing sides to every issue, but one look at Washington will show you that if you want to get things done, complete projects, and make progress, often in life you’ll have to reach out to the other side and compromise. Hear others out - they are approaching something from another point of view. Find your common ground and start from there. It’s easy give up at an impasse, but it’s more rewarding to find solutions that benefit both sides.
- A twinset and pearls are always appropriate – This is a conventional town but conventional can have its advantages. It’s predictable, and when you’re not sure if you want to stand out, go with the basics that always work. Pearls earrings will always be acceptable and show good taste, and a twinset…well, you’ll always have a sweater to keep you warm.
With all my love,