This past week our home-from-college son and I spent the day in Washington, DC. When the boys were little, he, his brother and I went on many adventures to DC. I sometimes wonder how I managed- a double stroller on the metro, two small boys, and a knapsack packed with lunches, snacks and any possible emergency items?
When I ask them now, "do you remember going to ...?" they will say no. So much for supplementing their educational experience with "field trips". Although I have noticed that as adults, they will go to museums on their own or arrange a group trip with their friends. Even though they might not remember visiting every Smithsonian museum, something stuck and somehow we were able instill a curiosity and sense of patronizing museums and other organizations of learning to the boys.
For all our many visits, we never went up the Washington Monument. So, last week we did. Afterwards, my son and I had a long discussion about monuments, memorializing events or people through monuments and its significance to those who visit. One question came up, "why don't people just visit the individual's grave?" In some ways a monument seems to celebrate the life of the person more than a gravesite. A monument recognizes the individual (s) achievements and service or is used to commemorate an important historical or cultural event.
According to Wikipedia, "The origin of the word "monument" comes from the Latin moneo, monere, which means 'to remind', 'to advise' or 'to warn', suggesting a monument allows us to see the past thus helping us visualize what is to come in the future. "
I am reminded of Biblical stories when the Israelites wanted to remember a place where they had witnessed a miracle, they built a pile of stones type monument. It was to be a visual remembrance of God's provision. Other times, monuments were built as a warning for the consequence of lack of faith (e.g. Lot's wife turning into a pillar of salt).
Sometimes I think I need those visual reminders in my life. I can get so caught up in the day to day minutiae that I forget the blessings that I have received. I forget how God has provided for me and for my family, time and time again. I forget to notice the daily miracles of life, breath and well-being.
Monuments can be a testament to heed some type of warning. Many times when something unpleasant or difficult occurs I think, "In the future, I will remember not to do such and such.." Yet, how many times do I forget and repeat the same offence?
Just as it is important for a society to pause and reflect on an event or person through monuments, I think as individuals we need too as well. We need to build monuments in our life so that we can reflect on our past in order to improve our future. They may not be physical monuments but they can be verbal stories that we pass along to our children and grandchildren. Or they can be little symbols that remind us of our blessings and warn us of our past indiscretions. Whatever our monument might be it is designed with the thought that we want to learn and move forward in our lives.
What about you? Have you ever visited any monuments? What was your take-away? Have you ever built any monuments in your life? What would they look like?