Some everyday destinations include work, school, church, the gym, the grocery, and the park.
Special destinations could be the lake, the beach, or even a foreign country.
Then there are those courses of travel that are far more about the journey itself than the destination.
Pursuing a degree or accepting a marriage proposal are both courses of travel which, while they should be considered journeys, may have no specific destination.
Regardless of the trip and whether or not it has a destination, the trick is to learn as much as you can along the way and ALWAYS TRY to treat each person you encounter as if he or she is your cookie-baking granny.
When I was a kid, my mother often said, “You’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” “Yes, ma’am,” I’d murmur, dying to ask, “Why in the world do you think I’m trying to catch flies?!” Not until I was a teenager did I understand what she meant.
From the stories I have heard, my paternal grandfather, Papa, was a honey-kind-of-fellow. People liked and respected him. He was a hard worker, operating a steam shovel in a rock quarry for over 40 years during the middle of the last century. The work was dangerous and hard, freezing cold in the winter and deep-fryer hot in the summer.
He only took one vacation a year, but what a trip! First, he’d get all dressed up in his best suit, shove a good wad of cash into his pocket, and don a pair of old coveralls. Next, he’d hop a northbound freight train, which was usually hauling coal, and ride it all the way to Washington, DC. Dodging railroad police, he’d jump off the freight at some point, quickly shuck the coveralls and hide them beneath a bush. Then, he’d walk into DC for a week of fun at the Cherry Blossom Festival. At the end of the week, he’d retrieve the coveralls and hop a southbound freight home. He did this, “hoboing” as they called it, for years and years—even after he married my grandmother!
Papa’s hobo adventures must have been delightful side trips away from the drudgery of his overall life’s journey. Why else would he continue to go year after year? Riding 450 miles swaying to the clickety-clack of the wheels on the C & O Railroad; anticipating the fun he’d get into in DC must have beat the stuffing out of sitting in that steam shovel on that pile of rock.
Papa saw and experienced things he otherwise would only have read about in a dime novel simply because he dared to take the side trips.
His childhood was hard. His mother died when he was only five. Soon thereafter, his father gave him away to a white man who primarily used him to clean out the fireplaces in his hotel. Years passed, the only love he had known—his mother—faded from memory replaced by the confining burden of the hard work he was required to do.
When he was old enough and big enough Papa left the hotel, hopping a freight train to personal freedom and life experience. The kindness of strangers he encountered, a few of whom became friends, undoubtedly shaped his attitude and resulted in that honey-kind-of-fellow whom I can barely remember. His quiet, loving demeanor certainly wasn’t cultivated by his family because he didn’t have one as he grew up.
His journey through life, while hard and unappealing to most, produced much fruit. Papa was happily married to my grandmother for 55 years, and he was blessed with a fantastic son—my father. When he died in 1971, he owned his own home, a ’64 Chevy Impala and zero debt despite being refused his pension upon retirement from the quarry. He also owned the reputation of being a fine up-standing citizen of the town, loved by all who knew him.
How did this happen? How did Papa get from scrawny, penniless orphan to comfortable retiree?
I believe it was because he chose to take the journey of his life, hard as it was, and make the best of it. He chose to use everything he learned and, most importantly, he chose to model the kindness he both saw and received.
He dared to take the side trips to alleviate the oppressiveness of his daily grind.
He chose the right freight train for each side trip as well as the right passenger train for the journey in order to learn all he could.
He refused to be obsessed about the destination, while deciding to be concerned about the people.
Each person Papa encountered was the cookie-baking granny he never had.