When I was 9 years old, my father wanted to take us as a family to visit his sister, who lived in Bermuda at the time. I credit my dad’s willingness to take advantage of moments like this that has shaped me into his mini-me. He lived by this philosophy, “stop and smell the roses because we may never pass this way again.” I’ve never been to Bermuda since, but it etched some very formative memories into my nine-year old brain, and that experience is an influential part of my story that I still draw from fifty years later.
I have since substituted his words with mine. If you know me or have dined, traveled or hung out with me, you have probably heard me say:
“Did we do what we came to do?”
And if you’ve drank with me on St Patrick’s Day, or any other Irish celebration, you will certainly have seen me in my Guinness jersey that I purchased in 2009 on our family trip to Ireland. That year, I made a similar choice as my dad, thinking, when will I get this opportunity to take my kids abroad? And I took it. And I’m so glad I did.
On the last day of the trip, I was contemplating taking home a souvenir and the Guinness jersey was on my radar. For some reason, I declined. As we left the shop, my son, using my words, said, “Dad, did you do what you came to do? You should go back and get that shirt.”
Another moment where I’m glad I listened. I have more than a shirt. I have a memory and a story attached to it. And I’m relaying that story thirteen years later.
Back to the Bermuda trip.
I recall the nervous energy in my nine year old body as we boarded the Pan Am 747, a monster plane with features of engineering I couldn’t understand. The sheer size of it was intimidating. Add to it that this was the first time I experienced air travel. Needless to say I was overwhelmed.
We sat in the back of the plane, in the smoking section as was standard practice on airplanes back then. I recall being fascinated by the ashtray in the armrest. I could push the button and watch the lid flip up. It was as effective as an electronic device is today. A distraction for a small child in a foreign space.
It was raining at the time of departure. Cloudy, dark and windy. This added to the turbulence at take off and I grabbed my mom’s hand tight as the bumpy air shook the aircraft. My seat was by the window and I pulled the shade down thinking that might help reduce the stimuli provoking my anxiety. But something happened shortly that changed my entire perspective and demeanor.
Slowly, light started entering the windows of the cabin, and so I lifted my shade to see the sun appearing with the clouds below. The sky was now bright and blue and visibility was infinite. I turned to my mom and asked, “what is going on?” and I’ll never forget her answer:
“This is what it’s like all the time up here.”
At the time, I couldn’t fully grasp the geography of earth, clouds and sky. But my fear subsided because I had a new perspective of my circumstances. I come back to this visual illustration again and again in my adult life.
I have discovered a place where it’s like this all the time. It’s called Peace. It has its own jurisdiction and governing bodies. I daily seek to make this place my home. If I find myself covered with clouds, I understand that it’s just for a moment. If I ever wander or find myself outside the city limits of Peace, there’s a road that always leads back to where I belong and where I’d rather be.
The best is yet to come.