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The long haul: Hanna and the family trip

05/26/09 7:55AM By Cheryl Hanna
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Mark Linton
(HOST) Earlier this spring, VPR commentators gathered at Sugarbush Resort to address a common theme, and this week we're hearing some of their thoughts on "The Long Haul." It reminded commentator Cheryl Hanna of a family trip that didn't go... quite as planned.

(HANNA) When I was twelve, my grandmother, my mother, my sister, my aunt, my uncle, three younger cousins, and I all piled into a mini-van in Phoenix for a family vacation to Universal Studios in California. It was supposed to be one of those "Aren't-we-all-so-happy-to-be-together" trips!

Well, after about one hour into our journey, it started:

"Mommy, Frankie's hitting me."   "I'm hungry."  And the dreaded, "Are we there yet?"

We were miserable.

Then my uncle, who was driving, got lost. He stopped to ask for directions just as night began to fall over the vast desert.

When he got back to the van, he told us we weren't just a little bit lost, we were really, really lost, and that it would be many, many more hours before we were there.

For the first time on that trip, everyone was quiet.

Then I remembered this Saturday Night Live skit we had seen, recently mocking Jimmy Carter and his last days in office.  So I shouted out, "We lost!  We're losers!"

I am not sure why that seemed so funny, but we started laughing - really, really laughing.  And we must have repeated, "We lost! We're losers!" about a thousand times on that trip, and still repeat it at every family reunion.  It's the most lasting memory of that vacation.

So, recently, I've been thinking: The journey for equality for all of us, regardless of race or gender or sexual orientation, is a lot like that trip.  Even when you all agree on the final destination, there's lots of infighting and no clear sense of direction. There's frustration and impatience, as well as many moments of joy. And you learn a lot about yourself and your fellow travelers, things you're glad to know, and things you wish you didn't.

What makes these journeys bearable is that we all believe that, despite the long haul, eventually we'll get there - maybe not as soon as we hoped or on the road we intended to travel.  But we make progress, we are making progress - one mile, and one milestone, at a time.

(applause out)

Related Links

The Long Haul series page
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