Impossible or absurd to compare a cross country trip in a U-Haul and the East Charlotte Tractor parade? Well, here it is.

Recently my husband and I flew to Oregon to retrieve some very old family furniture. We rented a small U-Haul truck and drove it back to Charlotte. Also recently I had the great opportunity, thanks to Carrie Spear, to be a volunteer at the 19th annual East Charlotte Tractor Parade. The similarities were inescapable. They are about wonder, community and hope.

Driving, even on the interstates, as we did, reveals to you the vastness of this great country. Leaving Eugene, Oregon, we headed east (heading west would put us in the Pacific Ocean). Thought it would be all sage brush sea, but the geological formations were stunning. Then headed east through Idaho and Montana. Crossed the Continental Divide and through the Bitterroots and marveled at the pioneers who had made their way. Through Minneapolis and St Paul, crossing the upper Mississippi. A geography lesson.

We did take one detour in North Dakota to stop at Amidon, my husband’s family name. Not much there but a reminder that many of the names of towns west of here are ours: Charlotte, Springfield, Burlington, etc.
As we passed the farm fields of Illinois, suddenly we came upon Chicago…. The vast skyline, like the Emerald City of Oz, in the late day sun. As we wound our way through Chicago we had the chance to glimpse neighborhoods. People live there…oh, how I wanted to talk to them.
The overwhelming feeling was of an enormous and wonderful country. I wanted to talk at length everywhere we went—the diners, the hotels and gas stations. What are you thinking, what do you think about us as a country, as a people?

Attending the East Charlotte Tractor Parade produced the same feeling. Here, in our troubled times, was a gathering of young and old, of who-knows-what political dispositions and affinity for what type of tractor. Thanks to Carrie Spear and friends, it is a gathering of folks. I have the Tractor Parade calendar on my desk.

The same sense of who are you, who are we, how do we differ. Can we come together?

I guess the common lesson is this: When you have the opportunity to leave your cocoon, see other folks and other situations, take it.

This is probably pretty naive, but what joins us can be more powerful than what divides us.