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Growing up in Cleveland, Ohio meant that Niagara Falls was only a three hour drive away. So, as a child, I visited the main attractions there more than a couple of times. Every trip included the same basic elements. Cross over to the Canadian side on the Rainbow or Peace bridge. Put on a big yellow rain coat to walk in the caves or tunnels behind the Falls, and take a boat ride on the famous "Maid of the Mist." Gaze down into the whirlpool and wonder if the cable across the gorge could break and send the antique aero car plunging down into the rapids.
I remember being amazed by the strange combination of courage and stupidity that motivated daredevils to send themselves over the Falls in barrels, or across them on tightropes. I also recall a visit to Niagara during an especially cold winter because my grandmother had read in the newspaper that the Falls were more frozen than they had been in decades. Who'd have thought mist could freeze into towering stalagmites of ice.
By the time I left home for college, however, I would have considered a trip to Niagara Falls boring. Sure, it's a natural wonder and all, but I'd seen it. Yes, you can hear the roar of the falls for miles. And, it is true that one-fifth of the world's fresh water supply has gone over that drop. But there is something to that old saying: "familiarity breeds contempt."
Maybe returning to what's familiar is just part of getting older. But this year, desperate for some time away and short on resources to do very much, we decided to take our youngest four kids on a side trip to Niagara while visiting their step-grandmother in Rochester, N.Y. They had never seen the Falls.
There's nothing like someone else's eyes to open your own, and nothing like a bit of time and distance to restore your perspective. Our kids were impressed by the sheer volume of water at Niagara Falls. They were astonished by how huge the Falls really are, and how the mist makes everything wet. It was no surprise to them that people from all over the world travel there to experience the power and force of nature.
Revisiting the Falls has got me thinking. I wonder just how many other things I've allowed myself to become jaded about -- how many other things I'm taking for granted. In some ways, being active in the life of the Church can have a similar effect. In the familiarity of parish and Mass, it is possible to lose my sense of wonder and awe. Because I receive from the altar so easily or frequently, I can forget whose altar it is. So what's the remedy? Maybe it's as simple as revisiting our faith with someone else -- someone who hasn't yet been-there-and-done-that.
O God, give me the grace to experience your presence as if it were the very first time. Keep my devotion from turning cool. Show me the beauty and power of your glory. And when I lose appreciation for who you are, help me to see you through new eyes. Rush over me, Lord, and carry me away to deeper waters along new currents of love.
Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a wife and mother of eight children, and a disciple of the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales. She is an inspirational author, speaker, musician and serves as an Associate Children's Editor at Pauline Books and Media.