Lessons from history: A Grand Terminal

We love stories.  It’s true. And we love stories with a happy ending.  We also love stories that have some angst in them.  That demonstrate life.  We want them to entertain us, inspire us and yes- change us.  Over this past month I have been reading Mark Batterson’s book The Circle Maker.  It’s an excellent book that I’ll review once I wrap it up but in this morning’s reading, there was a story that just resonated with me because it is such an example of what transformation can really do.  And it’s not a story about a person.  It’s a story about a place.

When Daniel Burnham first came up with the idea for building what would become Washington’s Grand Terminal he had a tremendous vision for it.  And he was already well known and highly regarded.  But there was a problem.  Where they wanted to build the Grand Terminal was basically a swamp. It took 4 million cubic yards of fill dirt just to get a foundation in place.  Can you imagine what kind of vision and commitment it took to make that happen?  Why not build it somewhere else?  Because that wasn’t the vision.  It then took 5 years and cost $25M to finish building it.  But they did build it.

Grand Terminal2If you’ve never visited Washington’s Grand Terminal, it may be hard to imagine the scope of this.  It is breathtaking.

One of the quotes attributed to that visionary that started it all is “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood.”  From a swamp to a center of travel and commerce that would one day serve over 32 million people every year.

Can you imagine all of the life stories that have had their genesis at that place?  How many memory moments are tied to it’s purpose?

This year marks it’s 100th anniversary.  Over the years, it has been more than a landmark.  It has become part of the fabric that is uniquely American and specifically, Washington.  It has continued to be championed over the years as a testament to what happens when your vision is big enough to stir our blood.

You might ask what this has to do with our lives.  I believe it has everything to do with how we see things.  Using it as a metaphor for our lives: Do we see a swamp?  Or a structure that will serve millions?  How big is our vision?  Because that’s how big our life will be.  If we’re determined to serve, we will serve.   We will do what it takes to create the right foundation and build a life that serves at the highest levels not only now, but 100 years from now.

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