The summer that our daughter turned 17 she made plans to join a youth group trip to Poland and Israel. An acquaintance confronted me with genuine concern and asked “How can you let her travel to such a dangerous place?”
Although we definitely worried about our daughter’s trip it wasn’t because of the location, it was the idea that she would be so far away without us by her side to “protect” her. We knew how important this trip was to her and how much she wanted the experience. We also knew teens who had taken similar journeys in previous summers and even more parents who had let their children go, and we were filled with stories of wonder, happiness and thankfulness for the experience.
However I did repeat the concern to the trip organizers during a parent-prep meeting. The response certainly opened my eyes. The young man I spoke to visited Israel and other parts of Europe several times a year, sometimes as part of his job and other times simply to spend time with friends he made through the years.
“When I am overseas and strangers learn I am from the New York City area they always ask me what it is like to live in such a dangerous place. Because of the way the media presents things they believe we all carry guns, fight off attacks every day, step over bodies in the street regularly, and have to live in secure fortresses for any kind of safety.”
His response certainly made me pause. He then asked if I was in contact with people in Israel and suggested I ask them what they thought about a group of North American teens visiting Israel (and yes he offered me contact info for some of his friends. He thought if I needed reassurance I should speak to people who actually lived there instead of some media copy that only painted a picture that would sell.
Unfortunately the world we live in has far too many incidents of violence and tragedies, but most people, thank goodness, live and work in cities and towns all over. No one is immune to the POSSIBILITY of being in the wrong place at the wrong time (even at home), but does that mean we should freeze in our tracks afraid to experience life? Practicing caution and being vigilant is wise but closing ourselves off to new adventures and possibilities is, well, not living.
She went to Poland and Israel and there were a few incidents of “concern” (more for her nervous parents than her) but she came home thrilled for having gone and changed by the lessons she learned by seeing the different cultures. She’s been back to Israel since and loves to travel… wherever. Her latest goal is to visit every continent at least once. And even now years later, even when she is accompanied by people who love and care for her, I worry each time she takes flight.
Our son is another test of a parent’s nerves, his adventures involve some travel but are more geared to physical challenges (mountains, skydiving, oy vey!). It is so true that no matter how old our offspring are, they will always be our babies — we look at the very capable adult and still see the infant cradled in our arms.
Sometimes you have to just pray A LOT and hope for the best, but always let life happen.