Sometimes brief encounters have a lasting impact. We were in Pennsylvania on vacation and on our way back to our home base in Hershey after a day trip to Philadelphia. We had spent the day exploring some of the birth sites of our nation, places like Independence Hall and the site of Ben Franklin’s home and print shop. We were 30 minutes away from “home” when we decided to take a detour to visit a Harley Davidson store.
I had zero interest in owning a Harley but a great interest in buying a t-shirt. A friends of ours was a big Harley guy and collected T-shirts. We thought it would be nice to grab one from one of the many Harley stores in central Pennsylvania. We found a store and after taking a few moments to orient ourselves made our way past the bikes and upstairs to the T-shirt section. After several minutes of browsing and debate we selected a shirt and made our way to the register. The clerk was a pleasant young woman who seemed to be in her very early twenties.
In the course of our conversation we shared that we were from California. Her eyes lit up (apparently not a lot of Californians visit Harley stores in central Pennsylvania) and she asked us where in California we lived. She did not know where Orange County was so I told her we were about 20 minutes from Disneyland, which impressed her even more. She told us that she hoped to be able to go to California some day. The way she said it led me to believe that she wasn’t sure she’d ever make it out west, that she understood such a trip would likely be forever beyond her financial reach. She mentioned that the farthest she traveled was Hershey, about 10 miles away.
I was struck by how different our lives were. We lived in a beach town in Southern California with theme parks, beaches and mountains and Hollywood within easy driving distance. She lived in a small town where the single theme park in nearby Hershey was a big deal. We had traveled more and further in a week than she had in her life time. She could only dream of traveling. She lived in a part of the country where jobs were scarce and times were hard while we lived in an area of immense wealth.
As we drove away I thought about these differences. we lived in the same country and spoke the same language but lived completely different lives. What was normal and common for me was unfathomable to her. We consider ourselves to be normal middle class people yet to her we seemed incredibly wealthy. Our brief interaction reminded me of how easy it is to forget our blessings and privilege, how easy it is to lose sight of the opportunities afforded us simply because of where we were born and the talents God has given us. I have more to be thankful for than I often realize.