A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to spend a few days in Lexington and Staunton, Virginia. A new experience. I have never been to the area, and I was determined to make the best use of my short time there.

So I walked the old streets and visited old cemeteries and learned more about Confederate history than I ever knew. Like Stonewall Jackson’s first name is Thomas, and he lived in Lexington on a sloping street with a kitchen garden in the back. I visited his home and found out details about him and his family and the history of the enslaved people who worked for him. It was incredible. The curator at Jackson’s house was terrific. Especially for someone like me with a lot of questions. The place was pretty cool, and the dinner at the restaurant across the street was a satisfying way to end the day.

Do you know that Washington and Lee University and Virginia Military Institute are in Lexington? This was news to me as I walked both campuses, met students, and was reminded of the valuable lesson of an open mind.

I thought this short Virginia trip was about seeing the sights, overeating, and coming back with a pleasant experience.

It was more.

The cemetery in Staunton has a huge grassy hill right in the middle. I walked up to read the marker. Over 700 Confederate soldiers are buried there, with no names plaques, only grass. I sat down to catch my breath and think about commitment.

This post is not about the South vs. North but humanness, loyalty, family, and history. Not right or wrong, but leaning in to understand our American history.

Because I was born in the North and had not opened myself up to history as such, I found my visit to both small towns, Lexington and Staunton, enlightening. I felt connected somehow, which sounds crazy,

We may wish to erase history in today’s world, but we cannot without erasing the importance of freedom and humanity and how we arrived where we are today. So how do we understand events from our armchair discussions without venturing out into the world to see the actions that make up the truth?

I bought a book titled: Stonewall Jackson’s Book of Maxims. It is a good read and valid today as it was in the 1860s. The cover has a sepia image of the man.

I am going back, maybe not to this part of Virginia, but to other places to soak in more of what makes us Americans.

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Marleen Geyen

Marleen Geyen

The best part of me shows up in my writing about business ownership, leadership, family, personal relationships, travel and what I learn from human interaction.