By Beth Demme
“What dam?” my sweet daughter asked innocently.
“What dam?!” I responded incredulously. My tone conveyed how very annoyed I was by her question.
Partly I blame the heat. Afterall, it was 110℉.
Partly I blame sweet daughter. How could she ask that question? How could she have missed the d‑a‑r‑n dam!
We had just completed a two-hour float trip at the base of the Hoover Dam. TWO hours in the hot Nevada sun floating at the base of a dam soaring 726 feet into the sky. For two HOURS we listened as our guide told us about the construction and history of the majestic structure right in front of us.
I spent TWO HOURS in a boat in 110℉ temperatures wearing a silly looking hat just to learn about the d‑a‑r‑n dam.
As soon as we got into air conditioning and I regained the energy to speak, I asked breathlessly, “well kids, what did you think of the dam?” I didn’t have unrealistically high expectations, they were only 10 and 8 at the time. I thought they might say “it was big” or “it was neat” or “wowza.” But no, sweet daughter (age 8) was so impressed by the whole experience she simply responded, “what dam, Mommy?”
It’s been years since she uttered those now infamous words, and it’s become one of our favorite inside jokes.
When someone in our family doesn’t know what else to say they simply shrug their shoulders and say, “what dam?” If one of us has spaced out for a minute or two, we re-enter the conversation by saying “‘what dam?” When something is said that doesn’t make any sense (which happens more often than we’d like to admit), the others give a knowing look and say those two words, “what dam?”
Awkward moments that become inside jokes make for the best memories.
We travel quite a bit with our kids. We aren’t nomads, but we do enjoy several trips a year. Since that trip to the Hoover Dam we’ve also gone to places like the Grand Canyon, Mount St. Helens, all over the Southeastern United States (Key West to Washington, D.C.), British Columbia, Mexico, the Bahamas, Nicaragua, Barbados, and parts of Western Europe.
Inside jokes are one benefit of our shared experiences, but, of course, there’s a bigger purpose behind it all. The real reason our family travels so much is that it gives us a broader perspective of the world.
Seeing different geography, observing other cultures, and meeting new people shows us we are part of something.
Without travel I tend to think I am the one who matters, my family is the most important, or my community is the best. Travel gives me an opportunity to release that self-centeredness and embrace being part of humanity and part of God’s creation.
Traveling has made me proud of some aspects of my own culture, and envious of things I’ve seen in other communities. I love pumpkin pie, grits, and football. I love that we have clean drinking water. I appreciate easy access to a well-stocked grocery store. But, I wish we were more at ease with hospitality and I think we have a lot to learn about generosity.
Also, as silly as it may sound, I need to be reminded that God’s love is present outside my community. Just like isolating myself leads to a self-centered existence, my faith becomes narrow and stale when I keep it to myself.
Seeing God’s love in a Central American jungle, a quaint roadside chapel in the Pacific Northwest, or in a centuries-old European cathedral brings my faith to life in a new way. Those experiences force me to take God out the box I tend to put him in. Once he’s out of the box, I can marvel at his wondrous ways.
It’s true. Travel can be a holy experience.
Of course, the inside jokes are fun too.