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May 15, 2014

MAY: One for the road

Growing up, my family took several vacations. A couple of years we journeyed to the panhandle of Florida. One year we headed east and visited New York City and Washington, D.C. Still another year we traveled west to California, three kids packed into a station wagon that rivaled the Griswold’s in “National Lampoon’s Vacation.”

Funny thing about those vacations — I remember more about what happened along the way than I do about the vacation itself. The air conditioning went out in the station wagon in Needles, California. We spent an entire day leaning against a Coke machine at a Shell station while the mechanic who bore a remarkable resemblance to Gomer Pyle worked on the car.

We spent an hour and a half at a Howard Johnson’s killing time because Mom had driven too fast on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and Dad was convinced we would get a ticket when we finally pulled off the Turnpike. And who could forget getting lost at 3 a.m. near Fort Walton Beach, Florida. Somehow we wandered onto Eglin Air Force Base and were promptly surrounded by what seemed to be fifty Jeeps, with fifty soldiers sporting fifty rifles.

We aren’t counting fifty Jeeps but fifty days following the time of Easter and Passover. The purpose of our counting is to be sure that we notice the important things along the way. The last two weeks we have looked at important people, those who influence us and those who walk alongside us. For those keeping track, this is day twenty-two of our counting.

Life can be a lot like those vacations. We hype the destination, but the real significance comes as we journey along the way. Robert Louis Stevenson said “to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive.” Ralph Waldo Emerson penned “Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” Robert Frost wrote “I took the road less traveled, and that has made all the difference.”

Michael Card, a singer-songwriter who graduated from Western Kentucky University and now lives in Franklin, Tennessee, has sold over 40 million records. He entitled his greatest hits compilation “Joy in the Journey” and penned a song with the same title. The song starts with the words, “There is a joy in the journey, a light you can love on the way.”

Whenever we can, we take our family vacations to a place near Destin, Florida. We travel south along Interstate 65 until we get deep into Alabama. We then wander along state roads, crossing the Florida border at a quaint little spot called Florala and meandering the final miles to the Gulf.

One year the journey south was a slow one, and there was very little light to love along the way. Several areas of road construction and a couple of wrecks had snarled traffic to a crawl. We were hours behind schedule, hot and cranky and tired. All we really wanted was for the journey to be over, and to settle into a cabana chair and wiggle our toes in the white sand.

We finally began to make some pretty good progress when we again came to a halt just outside DeFuniak Springs, Florida. We set completely still as the seconds turned into minutes, the minutes into a half hour, and finally the half hour into an hour. Just as surely as the minutes passed, so did our patience. Almost as suddenly as we had come to a stop, the traffic began to flow again and we crept our way closer to the town.

As we turned a corner to roll through the residential area and on into the business district, we couldn’t help but notice that both sides of the street were lined with people. Many were in lawn chairs, accompanied by coolers, sandwiches and bags of chips. For several blocks, it seemed half the town had lined the streets. I was sure it was for our arrival.

We never saw a float. We never heard a band. There was no evidence of seventy-six trombones. But as the kids slunk onto the floorboard in the back seat of the car, I waved to the crowd as we slowly drove by. Some stared. Some ignored. Some rolled their eyes. And some waved back with a smile.

The ability to join the parade strikes me as what really counts.

— Tom May is the Minister of Discipleship at Eastside Christian Church in Jeffersonville. He is an adjunct instructor in the Communications Department at Indiana University Southeast. Reach him at


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