An exploration of things to do in Arlington

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Shelter from the Storm

Welcome to the first post in the new What's Up Arlington! blog. You may be asking -"why blog?". Good question. I asked myself the same thing. I'm fairly new to the whole blog thing. I read "The Blog Log" in the Washington Post Express and I periodically check to see what is on DCist, and Rides in the City (I think that's considered a blog) but that's about it.

I publish the What's Up Arlington! e-newsletter every two weeks with suggestions for fun things to do in Arlington. But I felt like What's Up Arlington! needed a more personal voice. It needed someone saying, "yes, I really did do this, and yes it really is fun." Or, if it turns out not so fun, then to say that too. And to give you a chance to comment as well. So, that's what this blog is for.

So, you may have wondered if I actually do the things that are in What's Up Arlington!. The answer - yes, well sometimes, OK, not as much as I would like. I've got all the same excuses you've got for not going - I'm busy, I wont' know anybody there, it's not a convenient time/place, I can't miss Lost, etc. Some of these are legitimate reasons, I'll give you. But some are not. So, I for one, am going to change those excuses and I'm going to let you know how it goes.

In the last edition of What's Up Arlington! I highlighted an event at the library called Shelter from the Storm: The Experience of New Arrivals in Arlington. So this past Wednesday, I headed over to Central Library (which by the way has ample parking and is metro accessible) for this conversation.

Attendance was good. I'd say there were 40-50 people there. The audience was probably more baby boomer than Gen X and Y, but there was a wide variety, and a lot of diversity. The panel consisted of a gentleman who was forced to flee Sudan for policial reasons, a lady from Malaysia who initially came to the U.S. to study, and a gentleman from New Orelans who lost everything as a result of Katrina. In addition, two audience members stood up during the presentation to tell their own stories including one lady who fled Bosnia during the recent civil war.

Sometimes I think we hear these types of stories so often that we become numb to the personal nature of them. I think this is especially true in the Arlington and the D.C. area. We're educated, we're diverse, we care about social issues. And in our own self-assurance that we know these things, we forget the personal nature. We forget that these people are real - that their experiences and their struggles are real.

During this presentation I was struck by the courage of the individuals on stage. I was struck by what they had been through and yet what they were conquering. It may sound corny and cliche-ish, but I was struck by how lucky I am to live the life I have lived.

I left the presentation having no doubt that my evening was well spent, that I had learned, was changed, even if only in a small way. It would have been easy for me to say I was busy, that I needed to work late, or to have some other excuse. But I didn't, and I am better off for it. (Oh, and I still got home in time for Lost).

Both Arlington Libraries and Parks & Recreation have a lot of programs such as this - programs that ultimately make you a better person - that may be through health & fitness, nature, cultural awareness, or social connections. I encourage you, when you see something that sounds interesting, check it out. You may be glad you did -- and when you do, please let me know what you thought.

In this week's edition of What's Up Arlington! you'll see another library event - cross-cultural cinema. This film tackles race relations in Mississippi, and should provide for a thought-provoking evening. Why not check it out? Bring a date or go on your own. And when you're there, look for the 6'2" skinny white guy. I'll be there.