Tuesday, September 1, 2009


There were two unexpected surprises during last weekend’s trip to Effingham, Illinois, to attend a funeral. Effingham, a town I am certain was originally called “Ham” until a resident became really really angry, sits at the intersection of Interstates 57 and 70, an area billed as the “Crossroads of America.” As such, it should not be a surprise to find a 19 story cross erected along the side of the highway. “The Cross Foundation completed a 198 foot Cross at the intersection of Interstates 57 & 70 in Effingham, Illinois. The site is intended to serve as a beacon of hope to the 50,000 travelers estimated to pass the site each day. The Cross Foundation is dedicated to building both faith and family on an ecumenical basis” (http://www.crossusa.org/index.html).  The Ten Commandments are inscribed on marble at the base of this 19 story cross. Each one also contains a recorded message that discusses the application of each commandment in modern America.

No field trip would be complete without a little drama. Major Havoc and Captain Chaos needed the open space at the base of this structure to run. Spending six hours in the car will do that to a person. The Major waited until after the seventh time we told him to stop running to trip and fall and scrape his knee. His wailing and teeth gnashing added appropriate atmosphere to the reading of the laws handed down by Moses. The situation also demonstrated why God gave children both a mother and a father. The father in this situation said (and I’m paraphrasing here), “Didn’t we tell you not to run? Now, sit down. It’s only a scrape.” The mother in this situation took the young boy into the visitor’s center to wash his “wound” and scrounge up a Brand-aide brand adhesive bandage since I managed to pack a first aid kit for the trip but didn’t manage to bring it with us when we left the hotel.

Captain Chaos waited for exactly three seconds after entering the visitor’s center to knock over a lectern holding the visitor’s log for the complex. I managed to lunge forward and grab the narrow wooden pedestal before it crashed onto the floor and splintered into three or four big chunks, an act which earned a small ovation from the volunteers manning the site. There’s nothing like making a quiet entrance. Their politely offered, “Would you like to see the movie about how the cross was constructed?” was answered with an emphatic, “NOOOOO!” as I hustled the two young ones of out there as quickly as I could. I could only imagine the damage they could cause in the dark while I tried to watch the movie.

The second surprise of the weekend came on Monday’s return trip when we stopped in Vandalia, Illinois, and stumbled upon the old state capitol building.  While the Boss used a public library computer to check on a Cub Scout popcorn issue, I took the children to the site of the state’s first state-owned capitol building. The building burned down in 1823. The site now houses The Leader-Union newspaper building. A plaque commemorating the site is attached to the front wall. Next to it is a little sign that reads:

    MISS OUT!!!

  • You'll earn more money.

  • You'll find a job easier.

  • You will be able to live on your own, afford a car, and support yourself
It's your future.  Make the right choice.
This business believes in the importance of education.
Truant students will not be allowed to loiter here and school authorities will be notified.

Maybe the author of the sign was writing from experience, but the irony is too good to pass up.  I particularly enjoyed the last line, “Truant students will not be allowed to loiter here and school authorities will be notified.” It made me want to hang out with the kids and wait for the Boss to complete her business, but of course my children were not truant, so it didn’t really apply. The sign does make me wonder why any student skipping school would choose to sit on a bench in front of a business in the middle of the day on a busy downtown street corner (or as busy or “downtown” as you can possibly get in Vandalia, Illinois, population
-83). When we skipped school the very last thing we wanted was to be seen by an adult.

At the State Capitol building, I enjoyed walking on the same floors that Lincoln and Douglas walked on when they both attended the Illinois legislature and began their debates. This was a fun discovery during our journey.

The Capitol Building
The Illinois Supreme Court Chamber
The Senate Chamber
The House of Representatives
Lincoln and Douglas walked here.
 (And now Arby did, too!)


CrossView said...

Love the irony! And I always found it both odd and amusing that students who skip school are punished by being kept out of school. 'Cause that just sounds like maybe they could rob a bank and be punished by being given loads of money!

Love that cross!

I'm sure the Illinois stuff was interesting. But right now, anything to do with Illinois just makes me queasy. Apologies to all of you (decent folk) from there....

Kellie said...

When I cut school my senior year, my friend and I would usually go have the breakfast buffet at Shoney's....until the entire pastoral staff at my church started frequenting it.

Kathleen said...

I don't believe a truant student would take the time or expend the effort to read such a sign.

And ditto on all that Crossview said.

I'm the one who's always telling my children to suck it up and stop the wailing.

And don't you sometimes feel like your family is a tornado that swirls into some place peaceful? I feel that often.

And, you know what? YOU GO TO WAY TOO MANY FUNERALS!!

Anonymous said...

Very educational, good job!

Yeah there's a cross like that (ironically) in Pigeon Forge, TN. I bet the people that offered you the movie thought you were atheistic or something LOL! :)

Ah, the joy of kids.

TeacherMommy said...

Leave it to you to bring all sorts of educational opportunities into a trip to a funeral...