There they are. Sitting in squalor in the big city. Rags on their backs, stomachs empty. Children of all ages, wander the streets or live in abusive homes in New York City. Because of displacement and death and disease, tens of thousands of these starving children are left uncared for as the line between abundance and dearth is a hair's breadth of chance or fate or poor parental choices in the big city of the Industrial Revolution. Charles Brace witnessed this spectacle in 1854 and was moved into action. His response was to found an organization removing children from big city squalor, transporting them out on "orphan trains" to awaiting pioneers and farmers for adoption throughout the mid-west who wanted to add to their families or needed working hands to help take care of the family farm or homestead.
|30,000 children lived on New York City streets|
What exactly is the grand gesture? To my way of thinking it is doing something that you would not normally do in your typical course of the day or year for that matter. It is not ordinary, but is, by definition, extraordinary.
I know that many romantics think this is all about the love. The Valentine's Day proposal (like the billboard pic above) is a big one here. But, that's a little too on the nose, somehow, to my way of thinking. It certainly is not unique, but it does genuinely touch the recipient to be sure. As far as that goes, well done, you for making a memory for you and your betrothed. However, I'd like to suggest that the true grand gesture is about the noblesse oblige that moves and touches all of us. It's not just for the one recipient, but the whole of us, as far as that's possible. Which is one of the reasons a very practical "orphan train" grand gesture can have an impact on an entire society. The grand gesture can be cute, sure, but hopefully it can also be impactful as well as heartfelt.
Many people find themselves today running marathons several times a year, raising money for cancer causes who only a few short years ago had never imagined they could run 26 miles. There are teams of these like-minded marathon runners who became runners because they wanted to "do something good" to help find a cure for the disease that harmed their respective families. They raise awareness and monies and set an example for all of us. This is a grand gesture.
If you've never volunteered to help someone read or put some time in at the soup kitchen or coach a team sport, well, then perhaps you've found a grand gesture for you personally. It certainly is a noble obligation, and over the course of a lifetime of volunteering you will have touched many, many individuals in your community. I like that. Goodbye Mr. Chips shows us all the impact our involvement in the lives of people can have over a lifetime of being engaged.
Other grand gestures are massive, public spectacles. Take the art work of Christo, who came to California in the early 1990s to place over a thousand large umbrellas throughout the rolling, golden hills of the Golden State. He did the same in Japan, though with blue umbrellas. Here in this one project you have thousands of large umbrellas, blue and gold, dotting the countrysides of two countries separated by an ocean, a culture, but sharing a wonderful grand gesture. Many argued this was pointless and a waste of time. Others lauded the project with high praise. Either way, it was a very grand gesture.
What are some examples of grand gestures that you'd like to share with us? Leave a comment or two!