I just returned from a week-long vacation with my wife, three of my children, their spouses, and 11 grandchildren. My daughter lives in Southern California, so we all descended on her house and used it as a base to visit some of the attractions in the area. My daughter has a large home, and every inch of it was filled with children and harried adults. The only casualties of the week were my four-year-old grandson’s collarbone that was broken on the trampoline and a couple of cases of the flu that my wife and I brought home.
This was not a comfortable vacation where the participants could relax and meditate or soak up the sun. Much of our time was spent on the freeways traveling to and from places like Disneyland and Sea World, where we stood in lines, wrestled strollers and their contents, went on rides, and watched shows. I felt about the same at the end of one of these days as I did after hiking 22 miles in one day on the Pacific Crest Trail a few weeks ago.
Sometime during the course of the vacation, possibly when I was wondering why I was doing this to myself, it occurred to me that my role for the remainder of the visit was to be the best husband, father, and grandfather I could be under the circumstances. I am sometimes frustrated by my inability to change things for the better, but I realized during the vacation that this was a perfect opportunity to be somebody’s angel. In my case, the somebodies were my grandchildren, who are still young enough to be excited by the prospect of a grandfather who will go with them into the Tower of Terror or sit in the Splash Zone during the whale show. I also had the privilege of baptizing one of my granddaughters (not in the Splash Zone) and receiving a giant hug for my efforts that more than compensated for missing the second half of the inconveniently scheduled Duck game.
I did nothing to resolve the federal financial showdown during my vacation, and I limited myself to a few phone calls and e-mails related to city business. I did help make some children happy, and I found that by doing so, I improved my attitude and outlook. I also learned how tough my little four-year-old grandson is by watching him take part in all the outings without complaint despite his broken collarbone.
I think we all have the chance to do something positive for someone else every day, and I believe most of us take advantage of that chance most of the time. My vacation was a good reminder of how important and therapeutic it can be to let go of personal interests for the sake of someone else.