They are nothing more than a bunch lines and symbols, but to me they've always meant so much more. Whenever I look at a map I wonder about the people. Who are they? Where they might work. What route they might take to get to that job. How far they might have to go to the grocery store. I like to explore a map and let the stories unfold in front of my eyes. You see a piece of paper... I see the greatest story ever told.
A map is my Harry Potter, it's my War and Peace, my To Kill a Mockingbird all folded into one. The stories that can be told in a map are endless.
I’m reminded of all this as I stare out of an airplane window at 35,000 feet. The snow covered ground below looks like a white tile floor from up there. What will be a stream or a river in the spring time after the snow melts are just little lines meandering through endless valleys. Roads run off into the distance, where they end I do not know, but I'm sure there is a story there. From 35,000 feet the Earth looks like one big beautiful map.
This past weekend I feel like my maps came to life. Dads from all of the world — places that I have only dreamt about — came together to share their stories with me. No longer did I have to imagine what the people and places were like. I didn’t have to take out a map of Canada and wonder. I got to actually talk to people from Ottawa, Calgary, and Fredricton. Sydney was no longer foreign to me. Ireland was sitting across the table sharing a beer. New Mexico, Florida, Los Angeles, Chicago, Indianapolis, Portland… every single place had a story, and every single place was just as I imagined, which is to say, not much different than where I live.
The Dad 2.0 Summit was like giant map of the world that I could unfurl. In one corner you get a story about a guy who has been on the road with his family for the past year. Along a fold there is a dad who struggles daily with depression, and from somewhere in the middle is a stay at home dad with twin boys who battles with the feeling of being isolated. I knew these stories going in, but I really didn’t know the men behind them. Like places on a map, I knew where they were from, but I had never actually visited.
The world is a little smaller now than it was last week. I may not physically know the places each dot on a map represents, but I no longer have to imagine what it's like to live there. I can look at my map now and know exactly where John lives, where Lorne lives, where Bill lives, where Jeff lives. The maps no longer tell me where I want to go... they tell where I've been.