Journeying: A Perspective of One Traveler

Posted on January 27, 2013

One of the most profound lessons I learned last weekend… REALLY learned… was the idea that it’s ALL about the Journey and NOT the destination.  One that Rev. Meg of the Church of the Larger Fellowship (CLF), who headed the trip to New Orleans, began reinforcing from the beginning, even before we departed for Louisiana.  She said that we were on something of a pilgrimage; that our trip could be equated to any great “hero’s” story and used Harry Potter as an example.  Over the course of the trip, my perceptions changed, though.  I realized I was not as much of a “hero” going to save someone from a despair that has existed there for many, many years before Katrina ever hit, but to partner with the folks living there to improve circumstances, if only for a few days.

© A Mental Mystic, 2013

© A Mental Mystic, 2013

If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time.

But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.

~ Lilla Watson

The house we worked on was that of a gentleman, who has done so much for civil rights throughout his lifetime, and his wife.  Out of respect for their privacy, I will keep them anonymous.  Suffice to say, though, once I realized who he was and all the good he has done for others, it felt especially good to do what I could to give back to him and improve their circumstances to the degree I was able.

See… their own “Journey” is not much different from that of others.  They bought the duplex a number of years ago as their retirement home, planning to live in one side and rent out the other for a source of income.  Then, the house beside theirs caught on fire, damaging one side.  Not long after, Katrina passed through.  While it did not flood, as I understand it, there was significant water damage done.  Since then, even with financial assistance from recovery initiatives, they’ve had difficulty getting a leg up with the project, given that they’ve also had several break-ins in which they’ve had quite a few of their building materials stolen.

Going in, there was a huge list of things that the homeowners were hoping we could do toward getting one side habitable so they would be able to rent it out soon, giving them the income that would allow them to begin work on the other side. The side they intend to live in.  The biggest difficulties we ran into was, beyond the fact that there weren’t all the tools and materials necessary for many of the projects, there were few among us who could truly be called “skilled”.  We were just a group of people that wanted to make a difference in the lives of others.

After a couple of our more knowledgeable team members looked over the list and made a plan for those things we could do, we got to work!  And after a couple of days, for a group of “unskilled” volunteers, we made a big difference.  The homeowners were even heard to say that we helped to give them hope.

What would it mean to live
in a city whose people were changing
each other’s despair into hope? —
You yourself must change it. —
what would it feel like to know
your country was changing? —
You yourself must change it. —
Though your life felt arduous
new and unmapped and strange
what would it means to stand on the first
page of the end of despair?

~ Adrienne Rich, Dream Before Waking

So… what profound, life changing lesson could I possibly have learned from any of that?  Several, actually…  But the one I’m addressing at this time, in this moment, is the Journey.

Sure, the family was not able to move back in to the house.  They aren’t even able to rent the one side out… yet.  What we did give to that family, beyond our time, was a sense of hope; hope that they would “reach their destination” – sooner than later.  Sometimes, that’s really the best one can… well, hope for.

As we journey, it sometimes seems as though we take one step forward and two steps back.  Sometimes, it feels as though we’ve come so far and still have so far yet to go, but it is in times such as though we must remember that it is less about the destination and more about the journey.

It has taken me so long in my own journey to realize the truth that exists in those words; that sometimes what we are supposed to get out of a situation… out of life… is not about getting from point A to point B, but the roses we’re given to smell along the way.