My church allowed me a couple weeks leave in January, mostly to begin wrapping my mind around my father’s death. There had been cards and emails and hands on my shoulders praying for me on Sundays. People then, and now, check in with me. The people of our church have been faithful in caring for me and us. While I was away from the office, I had to return to Arkansas to tend to some business of my father’s. I mostly stayed home the rest of the time, but I took a few days to travel.
For years I have had an abiding appreciation for long journeys on trains, even though my tolerance for the longest trips has diminished. This time I flew part of the way, took up space in the home of dear friends (parents of my brother, David), boarded a train in New York for Montreal. On the reverse, I stayed again for a night at the Swanson home and woke up to cross the George Washington bridge and a crowded bus to get back to Chicago. I’ll leave the details to more intimate conversations–because some things should remain private posts–but here are some things I learned during this last trip:
1. Anticipate delays, route changes, interminable waiting while other trains pass, coughing fits by multiple passengers, and various surprises which decorate, determine, and define the journey.
2. I really dislike getting on a subway in a new city, on the express train, going in the opposite direction I intended.
3. Sometimes strangers turned travelling partners say thank you and God bless you when you let them use your phone.
4. Strangers really want you to get where you’re going.
5. When searching for walking paths, stay on the side of the street with houses because mountains don’t have the easiest walkways.
6. In a foreign land I’m much more aware of someone mistreating me and much more aware, and perhaps grateful, when someone is nice to me.
7. People told me it was too cold to walk where I wanted to go, and I concluded it was because they didn’t know me, my ability, or because what they were saying was wise, even though I had to choose.
8. A church can be (and probably should be) a physical reminder to dream, to be inspired, without disregarding beauty and heritage and God.
9. Don’t trust when taxi drivers give you estimates during rush hour, or, at least, double them.
10. The train is an antidote to my delusions which tell me I don’t need to see blackbirds flitting from tree to tree, water frozen in a river, and cars waiting at stoplights.
11. There are delightful and memorable things, off well-worn paths, and generally away from view, and those things become gifts that help you see.