Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - May 15, 2003

"The station will come soon enough"

Who can deny - or would want to - that May is a magical month - a time of beginnings. Nature is bursting at the seams and the kids are too, looking forward to a school recess that runs the whole summer. Many adults are looking forward to a special vacation, just as we are. My sister and her two girls will be taking over the house and we will be heading off to Europe. If we have half as much fun traveling as we've had anticipating the trip, we'll have a great time.

But sometimes anticipating and planning can be a trap - a trap that squanders our life. I often think our family lives at a hectic pace, but when I was comparing notes with some of the other parents at school last week, I discovered we're probably only average. Some days I feel as if half the day is spent getting from here to there. Once I arrive, I begin thinking about the next appointment. It is an easy habit to get into - always looking forward to the next goal without appreciating what we have now.

We've all been encouraged at times to stop and smell the roses. It's one of those ideas that you hear at motivational seminars. It sounds great and some of us actually promise ourselves to change our ways. Then when the alarm rings the next morning, we're off to the races again.

But we are really wasting our lives if most of our time is channeled toward looking down the road. Robert Hastings, an ordained Baptist minister and popular storyteller born in Marion, Illinois, captured the essence of this idea in his essay, "The Station."

"Tucked away in our minds is an idyllic vision. We see ourselves on a long trip across the continent. We are traveling by train. Out the windows we watch the passing scenery - cars on a nearby highway, children waving at crossings, cattle grazing on a distant hillside, flatlands and mountains and rolling hills.

But uppermost in our minds is the final destination. On a certain day at a certain hour we will pull into the station. Once we get there our dreams will come true, and the pieces of our lives will fit together like a completed jigsaw puzzle. Restlessly we walk the aisle, eagerly waiting for the station. When we get there real life will begin. When I am eighteen. When I buy a new house. When I put the last kid through college. When I pay off the mortgage. When I reach retirement, I shall live happily ever after . . .

Sooner or later we must realize that there is no station, no one place to arrive at once and for all. The true joy of life is the trip itself. The station is only a dream. It constantly outdistances us."

Hastings died several years ago, but his words make me feel that he knew a thing or two about living. He completed his essay by encouraging us to: "Stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles. Enjoy the scenery. Get to know your fellow passengers. Watch more sunsets. Eat more ice cream. Laugh more, cry less. Life must be lived as we go along. The station will come soon enough."

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