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Finding purpose in the nation’s capital

The following reflection by Garrett Austen is part of a series of blog posts written by THINK Global School faculty members to showcase their thoughts and experiences from a recent weXplore trip to Washington, D.C. To view the entire conversation, visit us on Spot.

 

“Maybe one day I can get my picture up there?” -Garrett Austen

 

As I stared up at a wall displaying hundreds of journalists’ faces at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., I wistfully wondered to myself. This innocent thought kept replaying in my head as I stared up, oddly enough I realized, at a wall commemorating journalists who had died while doing their job. I was basically asking myself, “How wonderful would it be to be commemorated for dying for a noble cause. How wonderful would it be to have a cause that I could give my life to?”

Later on the trip, when we were visiting the Arlington National Cemetery, a co-worker asked me as an American, how I felt in this place and if I would ever consider joining the military. After contemplating this for a while, I actually settled on a, “yes.” I said something like:

“I would be honored to die fighting for what was right in World War II.”

Now those other American wars are another story, and I couldn’t bring myself to enlist today, but the fact remains that I was considering giving my life to a cause greater than my own. This was a thought that would never have popped into my head when I was younger. I can still hear my father repeatedly speaking about how silly it would be to join the military. Oddly enough though, this wasn’t the first time that that thought popped into my head throughout our travels in Washington, D.C.

It seemed like everything in Washington, D.C. and every activity we engaged in was pushing me towards doing something great with my life, pushing me to give and to devote my life to a greater purpose, something above me.

I was inspired again when the school went to see the film, “Lincoln,” after visiting the monuments throughout D.C. I was surrounded by the memories of people who had done great things with their lives, and I found myself wondering what my great cause is, what World War or Civil Rights issue I was fighting for. As I watched the movie, I began, much like I did when I wanted to be a journalist at the Newseum, or a soldier when I visited Arlington, to be a politician. This must be some kind of record! Three new life passions in one week!

Then finally, our week was capped with a talk by Greg Simon. And again, I was sitting there thinking, “Man, I really have got to do something with my life.” A few moments later I found myself sitting on the steps of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History reflecting on my whirlwind-of-passions week in the beautiful sunlight on a beautiful day. I looked over, and I saw at least fifteen students crowding around Greg, dying to ask him questions, their faces frozen in anticipation revealing the strain they were putting into listening and understanding each word that he spoke. I thought to myself, “How many of them will grow up to be politicians? How many of my students has he inspired?”

 

And that’s when it hit me. I have the best job out of all of them. I get to cross borders every day and inspire a generation to affect changes of their own. I was a part of this. I helped to plan this trip. My mark was here. What more noble job is there than a teacher? I may not be a soldier fighting Nazis, or a journalist dying in the line of fire, or a politician fighting to pass an amendment for equality; but I too have a purpose and a type of war to fight.

All images courtesy of THINK Global School art teacher Lee ann Thomas

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It all starts here.

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