The coolest thing I have ever seen changes with the number of decades I've lived. Part of that phenomenon is the definition of "cool." Boys weren't cool until late into my first decade. Leg-warmers were still cool until after my second decade. Attempting to keep up with trendy music was cool through my third decade. And, as the last part of my fourth decade reaches me, it's been cool to find inner peace and acceptance.
My own maturity dictates most of these, with the exception of leg-warmers, but even then following fashion trends was much more important to me during that time period.
That being said, none of the "coolest" things have anything to do with those broader ideas.
When I was very young the coolest thing I had ever seen was a boxcar. It was deserted in the middle of a wooded area and my family and I found it as we hiked from the road to see the Missouri River. I remember the boxcar much more clearly than the river because it scared me. I was certain that it would start rolling and either crush me or take me away. I had a very vivid imagination as a child! It was cool because I had never seen anything like it before. It is one of my earliest memories and because of that is susceptible to a child's reality vs. everyone else's reality, but it's still cool.
As a teen the coolest thing I ever saw was a live production of West Side Story. I went to the play with a small contingent of the Drama Club fom my high school and was able to sit in the front row. Being in Drama meant that I knew some of the tricks of the trade, but even with behind the scenes knowledge it was magical. I did get to go backstage afterwards, so that made it even cooler.
In my twenties the coolest thing I ever saw was a sunrise. For those who know me well saying that a sunrise was cool is a surprise. I am a night owl and can count only a handful of sunrises I have seen on purpose. I normally like sunsets much better. This sunrise, however, was cool not because of the usual reasons people give, but because it was the first sunrise I ever saw through my daughter's eyes. My husband Matt, daughter Sarah, and I were on an early flight to somewhere I can't even remember. He had Sarah on his lap by the window. We had been flying for about a half an hour so we were a decent way above earth. There was significant cloud cover and the plane was above them when the sun began to peek above the clouds. I had never seen a sunrise that didn't involve the earth, so I was suitably impressed, but it was when Sarah stood on her daddy's lap (she was less than one) to see better that it became the coolest thing. She stared at that sunrise and all of the shades of orange and yellow it was turning the clouds and said, "Oooh." It was just the right thing to say, but it meant so much more to realize that this sunrise was one of the many firsts I had been blessed with because of her.
In my thirties I had the opportunity to be the coach for my sister as she gave birth to my niece. My own daughter's delivery had been a frantic scramble to deliver her by emergency C-section, my mind a bit fuddled with anasthesia, so a labor and delivery was new. My sister had decided on a name much earlier in the pregnancy, but I suggested that her daughter's middle name be Ann, just like our mother's middle name. It seemed right, and I'm convinced it helped form a bond between granddaughter and grandmother. I still hope I didn't force my sister to use Ann, but my niece seems to love her middle name, so all is well. The birth was relatively normal and much like the films from the birthing class, high school biology, and television shows on Lifetime. It certainly had its drama with the baby's father being weird (nothing's changed there!) but it was nothing like prime time television births. There was real blood and real pain and a helplessness I felt at not being able to control the pain for my sister. However, when my niece arrived, the word miracle did not feel big enough. She was huge compared to my baby, but so beautiful. I've maintained that there really are ugly babies, and I've seen a few, but I've also maintained that babies need to be cleaned up before they are the beautiful bundles we expect. No one looks good with fluids and blood all over them! But, at that moment, I knew I was wrong for at least this baby. She only got better when the nurse cleaned her up and that was incredibly cool.
These last seven years have brought about all kinds of cool technology with things like my iPad touch screen, improved computer animation, the Cloud, etc. The coolest thing I've ever seen doesn't have anything to do with technology. Instead, it is those who maximize the possibilities within technology. These people are part of the rising generation. By "rising" I do mean those that are rising to the occasion. It would be so easy to sit back and allow technology to do all the work and there are plenty of people who do that. They wouldn't know what to do if confronted with a loss of this technology. The coolest are those that use the technology to improve life around them, not allowing the technology to use and control them. They take responsibility for their own lives, not demanding anything from others that they wouldn't do themselves. Sometimes while watching the news it seems impossible to find these people among this upcoming generation, but I've seen them, I know them, and I'm incredibly proud of them. They are the coolest thing ever.