Watching it Happen

By Sonny Morton, Sarah’s father


I joined Sarah for a few days in Medellín, and she asked me to write an entry in her blog. Maybe she expected me to write about our time in Medellín but I have chosen to take a different tack. Sarah will not be surprised. I write this from the perspective of a parent whose child has chosen to create an experience that carries some risk, and to some may seem reckless. How does a parent support such a choice?

Let me make one thing clear. I am not ignoring risks. There are risks associated with backpacking around anywhere for weeks at a time. What makes a trip like this scary (for her and for those who love her) are the unknown nature of what she will face, and the distance. If she gets sick or robbed or lost, I cannot promise to be there to fix it. Technology makes it easier to stay in touch but distance is still a barrier to doing what parents reflexively do – fix problems.

So why do I support, even encourage, this type of thing? Because there are certain things that such an experience teaches a person, things that are worth knowing. Here is a partial list of the reasons why it is worth swallowing your fears and getting “a little bit lost” (or encouraging your child to do so).

1. Good and evil are not national characteristics and the vast majority of people are good. You cannot learn this from anything but experience.

2. People are shaped by their history, and knowledge of history is essential to understanding the world and its people. There is a lot of history you will never know unless you go there.

3. It is easy to make friends if you try. Sarah has learned that travel is more about new friends than solitude.

4. Decision-making improves with practice. Travel of this sort gives you daily practice.

5. Resilience – things happen. Flights are canceled, the bus breaks down, you get food poisoning… You learn to overcome, and you learn that it is almost never as bad as it seems at first.

6. The value of graciousness. You learn quickly that yelling and a sense of entitlement get you nowhere, but a smile and “hable despacio, por favor” (speak slowly, please) will solve problems and make friends.

7. Being in charge of your life feels good. Sarah has been in charge of this experience from conception to planning to execution and adapting on the fly. Think she won’t carry this approach through the rest of her life? Not a chance.

I will close with a picture that I took of Sarah as we parted in Medellín, she for the next part of her trip and me to come home.

I texted it to my wife with the caption “My heart swells with pride and breaks at the same time.” Now home, the heartbreak of parting has receded but the pride will remain for the rest of my life. As the lessons she learns will remain with her.

10 thoughts on “Watching it Happen

  1. Well I can’t think anything I need to hear more than this on Will’s second day of Officer Candidate School. Thank you for a different and better perspective In the words of my daughter as a two year old “we did good”

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    1. Hi Laura
      Just wanted to reach out. My middle son was in the first increment of OCS that graduated last weekend. And my oldest son is currently in OCC for another 4 weeks. My heart is holding space with yours. Sonny so eloquently put into words what I am feeling. Pride and fear. Suffering and celebration. Courage and apprehension. Praying for your candidate. 🙏🏻

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  2. Ah, come on, Dad! This is beautiful and it brought tears. Nana worries, too. Maybe I don’t have as much of a positive view as you and Lorrie do but my worry level is right up there with yours. That back is as big as she is!!

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  3. It’s difficult to write while crying, but they are tears of joy…. for you as parents and for your sweet girl. I have been in this same position…. not to this extent, but the emotions are so very similar. You’re right Sonny, this experience will be so amazing and the memories will last a lifetime…. it will help to mold her into the incredible woman she is becoming. Well done.

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  4. Dearest Sonny and Lorrie…I can only imagine your pride as well as your fears. I’ve felt many similar feelings as we sent our 19 year old Kody off to Japan for 2 years with the Air Force. Our babies have grown up and we’ve taught them to be independent. May God bless their travels as they try to spread goodwill everywhere they go. P.S. Your post would have made Mrs. Horn and Mrs. Holler proud!!

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  5. Great words, fear is a big restricter but as you say it’s normally never as bad as you think. I also found out my kids only told me half of it as I was the worrier not them!
    I encouraged all my kids to have gap years that for one turned into 3 years as it grows and matures them as people. However one did return with her future husband!!!

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  6. Sonny, we barely knew each other in high school, but we are friends on facebook because of social media surrounding a previous reunion. Being a parent myself, I reacted with the same feelings as if this child were mine. And your words, truly depict the heart of a parent. Your “little girl” is very brave to embark on this amazing experience. I will keep her and your family in my prayers, please keep us abreast of her adventures, and safe return to your loving arms.

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