As a first-time Convention-goer, I’ve been soaking up the wisdom of my traveling companion, who is on her third Convention. She has guided me on which events to register for, how to navigate the long days and distances, where to score free food and drink. Perhaps her most useful piece of advice, however, is just to be fully present without expectation, to be open to the stories that unfold in between the big events.
My first brush with what she termed “Convention Magic” began to unfold standing in line for the delegation buses at the airport. Rather than a bunch of tired single-minded travelers having individual experiences, strangers greeted strangers and became fast friends. I met the effervescent Kat Gordon from the Florida delegation who shared stories from her 6! previous convention experiences, her current hometown of Orlando, Florida and her beloved hometown of origin, Charleston, South Carolina.
On the bus, I had the good fortune to be seated by another Florida delegate with a great deal of convention-going experience: former Florida Governor (1979 – 1987) and former United States Senator (1987 – 2005) Bob Graham. His first convention was in 1960, the convention where John F Kennedy received the nomination. We went on to talk about a variety of topics: the state of the Democratic Party in Alabama, the Barnes museum in Philadelphia, the sugarcane industry in Florida, his book, America, the Owner’s Manual: Making America Work for You, co-authored by Chris Hand, also on our bus.
Periodically, our conversation was interrupted by fellow delegates who wanted a picture with him or just a word or to thank him. He and his lovely wife were both gracious and engaging, both with the crowd and one-on-one. It was a great reminder that for me great experiences can happen in the most of mundane of circumstances (a bus ride) and are defined by connections with other others, active listening, being fully present, and shared storytelling. I am also reminded of the John Steinbeck quote about the fact that we don’t take the trip; the trip takes us. In that spirit, I can’t wait to see where else the convention trip takes me, and what other convention magic is in store.