Friday, May 1, 2009

Discovering a park ranger's passion

Hardly anything is more inspirational than coming across someone who is clearly passionate about something and excited about sharing that passion with others. This is what I found on the way to somewhere else a couple of weekends ago.

I was on a road trip with a friend from Gordo and a friend of hers who had flown in from Buffalo, N.Y., with a specific mission. Our first item of business after we picked up the Buffalo visitor at the Birmingham airport was to go through Macon, GA. She wanted to spend some time with an ill brother-in-law who had just recently been hospitalized. From Macon, we planned to spend a day at Ida Cason Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, GA.

But since we were in the area, we decided to take a teeny detour through Warm Springs, GA., and check out the Little White House. I had been there before in my teen years (a very long time ago) because it wasn't that far from where I went to high school in Phenix City, AL. But I didn't remember much about it other than this is where President Franklin Delano Roosevelt visited often in his search for curing or at least helping his polio. And the warmth of the springs was what attracted him and others afflicted with the crippling disease.

Before actually walking through the Little White House, visitors are routed through a museum. We happened into the lobby area just as a park ranger was explaining to a rather large group FDR’s time in history in the context of the expansion of the country. It didn’t take more than two seconds to realize that she absolutely knew and understood what she was talking about. We were mesmerized, listening intently to this woman about our age until time for the short film on FDR and his impact on the small Georgia town to start.

I have to confess I watched the film differently than I would have 20 minutes earlier just from listening to this park ranger. I asked her about her presentation. She said it’s always different but she has read and studied everything ever written about FDR and the people in his life as well as everything ever written about the U.S. expansion and events of that time. She was a student and loved recreating the story that she had discovered from her own interest.

Instead of going into all the fresh perspectives I came away from about FDR, suffice it to say, I have a whole new appreciation for who he was, what he did and the legacy he left behind. I can see why President Obama looked up to him. I went home with a hunger to get to know FDR even better than I did already, which obviously wasn’t nearly as well as I had thought. That’s the results of someone’s passion -- and I’m excited about it!

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