It’s another good looking morning at the beach. Spring is here, at least for a day… the coffee is hot… and an Eagles concert is playing on my laptop as I think back over the last two weeks since I’ve gotten down here. Our 3 week DIY reality show “What the Hell Were We Thinking?” has just officially ended last night. I might add that it was very successful and we are more in love than we were when we began the kitchen renovation experiment. It all looks fabulous and my wife did an amazing job of managing the dream throughout the process. Last night was the first official meal as well as the shakedown cruise for the new stove and both were a great success.
In the midst of this process, we took a much appreciated break in Sun River, Oregon which probably saved us both mentally and physically, even though we were nearly snowbound during our run through one of the mountain passes. You’d think, since I’m a native of upstate New York, that snow in May would not get to me, but it absolutely does. You’d also think that, as much as I’ve travelled through these passes in Spring, I’d be better dressed for the possible random blizzard, but I wasn’t. I was thinking it a bit more than ironic that the night before we left, we were watching a segment on the Donner party disaster in another snowy mountain pass.
I will say that, along with a much needed physical break from the remodel, our time in Sun River was a great mental break as well. Unexpectedly it became a time where I was able to answer a question that has been plaguing me ever since we moved here 10 years ago while passing back and forth through these mountains. This area was known as the western frontier, Lewis and Clark, the Oregon Trail and all that. I find it difficult enough to travel it by car and every time I do, much to my wife’s questioning of my sanity, I always ask the question “Why?”. Why would anyone, in a wagon of all things…. without suspension or air conditioning or heat, or surround sound, or rest rooms… continue across some of the most desolate areas that I’ve ever seen. Why would you stand at the edge of an unending plain, after just crossing the previous unending plain, immediately preceded by a desert of sage brush, not to mention the wild canyons filled with raging rivers, and decide to continue on? What was it that drove these people to drive their wagons into the snow covered peaks and through the passes to somewhere they’d never seen?
I think that I finally found my answer through a time travelling volunteer at the High Desert Museum between Bend and Sun River. This gentleman, dressed as a traveler in the mid 1800’s, answered my question, just as clearly as if I had gone back in time to join he and his family. He shared very simply, yet very profoundly, that there was nothing for them back in Central Illinois any longer. After having lived there for four years I can concur. Anyway… He shared that, for his family, times had become hard, and that the expected and assumed comforts of life were no longer there for them. They had lost the security of employment, of health, and even home, and that, on the suggestion of a family friend, they had set out to start over. Basically they were going to keep going, based on the hope from the stories of people who had come west and had come back to tell others about the promise that it held. It occurred to me, for the first time, the desperation that drove these people to follow the hope experienced and then shared by someone else. Personally, I think that I’d have been tempted at times to find one of those story tellers and beat them to a bloody pulp. This journey, as difficult as it was, offered more promise than the lives they had left behind…. And it was all based on the stories of those who had already gone.
This revelation has challenged me, one more time, to consider my own story and how it might offer hope to some who are falling victim to the uncertainty that lies in everything they were once certain of. Those who are of my persuasion, as followers of the creator of The Story, hold great hope for those who have lost theirs. Many that I know hold tenuously to the empty promise of perpetual employment, health and home, while deep inside understanding that there must be something more. Those people of the 1800’s imagined that there must be something more on the other side of the endless canyons, deserts and mountains. But it took the encouragement of those who had already made the journey, coming back to offer confirmation of the ache in their gut. The trouble is, too many of my kind… the followers of Jesus… never come back. They prefer to live in their newfound bubble, afraid of anything that might corrupt it, or too selfish to look back. For any reading this who may have already made the journey, don’t forget that you once stood at the edge of the desert and wondered. And just like you, there are people standing there today, and it just might be that the only thing between them and a new frontier is an encouraging story from you.