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The other day, we took the kids to the Henry Ford museum to see an exhibit on the Titanic. I couldn't wait - I've always been fascinated by the saga of the doomed ship: the heroism, the cowardice, all the events that had to coincide for the Titanic to meet her fate.
I didn't think the kids would get all of it, of course, but I knew at the very least there was an iceberg there - and I was betting they'd get a kick out of that. What I didn't count on was what they'd notice long before the doors to the exhibit even opened.
To get to the museum, we took a strip of highway I travel nearly every day to get to work. It's not pretty. It's bare and gritty, lined with vacant, weedy lots, run-down businesses and strip clubs.
It's a far cry from our peaceful, tree-lined subdivision. But I've seen the sights so often I don't even pay attention to them anymore.
But my kids did. "Who lives in those?" my daughter said, pointing to a dilapidated trailer court by the side of the road.
"Why are those there?" she wondered, pointing at old shopping carts at a deserted bus stop.
My daughter has always been kind-hearted. One time she went with me on a newspaper assignment to a food bank; she watched as the families lined up and loaded up their groceries. Still very young, she watched the kids clinging to their parents in the huge gymnasium. Later, she asked me if she could learn to sew someday - maybe she could make teddy bears, she said, so that those kids could get one when they came in. "Everyone needs a teddy bear," she told me.
On the trip, she sat quietly in the back seat, watching the scenery. "This makes me sad," she said quietly, almost to herself.
It was sad - is sad. Sad, too, that I see it so often I'd almost stopped noticing it.