I've been on vacation for a couple of weeks. My time away began with a flight to my sister's home in Michigan and continued on a 1645 mile road trip to the Atlantic Ocean in her little 1999 Chevy S-10 pickup. We visited Canada, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Two major realizations:
1. My sister and I can indeed talk non-stop for at least 18 hours a day.
2. Much more importantly, without exception and everywhere we went, we had reasons and opportunities to be on the receiving end of the gracious and open-hearted Goodness of people of varying ages, background, and color.
The guys at The Tire Shop in the village of Canajoharie, NY took good care of us after a blowout on the New York Thruway. I had the great blessing of being asked to facilitate a small circle of prayer in a motel parking lot, claiming comfort and grace for two other siblings on a very different type of road trip, journeying across the country while mourning the passing of their mother. We saw countless churches; spiritual communities founded in the 1600s, 1700s, 1800s, and lovingly maintained by the good stewardship of their community members. I was awe-struck by the soaring beauty of these houses of worship, witnesses to the power of the Divine, which I know resides within us all. They provided a good reminder that our own spiritual community is a mere newborn, and that the inevitable "issues" which arise are all part of the journey we are sharing together.
A no-longer-profitable family hardware store in Connecticut, closing after 58 years, provided a much-needed extra key as well as restaurant recommendations and a lovely opportunity to simply get off the road and visit with friends we hadn't yet met. The owner of a small shop, "The Chocolate Shell", in Old Lyme, CT, gave us each a fresh, liquid-filled chocolate-covered cherry when she found out we'd driven all those miles with the specific intention of visiting "her" little town. That was, without doubt, the most intensely pleasurable moment of the entire trip!
I was saddened that (at least in the areas we visited), access to the ocean is limited primarily to those who enjoy ownership, either through heredity or extreme financial success. Even the roads to view the ocean are privately-owned and guarded by insistent "No Trespassing" signs. Being west-coast people, my sister and I have enjoyed countless sunsets over the Pacific, and the theoretical "goal" of our road trip was to see the sun RISE over the ocean for the first time in our lives. I'm completely aware that in the scheme of life disappointments, this is among the most minor. It was still an unhappy realization that public access is limited to a very few fee-based parks, none of which opened until long after sunrise. We are thankful to the nameless gentleman in Connecticut who shared that a 45 minute drive to Rhode Island would place us at a public beach where we could actually see waves. This beautiful planet is home to us all.
The unexpected gift of the trip was finding my 60's-bred cynicism greatly lessened by the reminders of the inherent Goodness (Godliness) of the American people. Plaques and monuments dedicated to the desire and sacrifice for liberty, justice, and freedom for all which served as the catalyst for our existence as a nation continue to give silent testimony to the eternal dedication to Wholeness which is the nature of Truth. Yes, our past is troubled; grievous wrongs were committed by those who founded this nation. I take heart that, as Maya Angelou said frequently, "When you know better, you do better". I am thankful to see that it seems we are learning to do better. We have a great deal further to go together, but all-in-all, I've been heartened by the good intentions and willingness of the fellow Expressions of God I encountered on my journey.
We are, together, so much more than the petty human differences which would tear us apart. "We are", in the beautiful words of one young man I met, a person of color in New Jersey, "so much better than the news media seems to want to portray us."
We are better than our selfish human interests. We are more than people who vote for certain other people or watch certain new channels or drive to certain buildings on Sunday mornings. We are more than our hurt feelings. We are more than our politics. We are more than the personal preferences we naturally gravitate toward. We are more than our human understanding will likely ever comprehend. We are More.
And... it's good to be home!