Thursday, December 27, 2012
Ever Been Lost?
Have you ever been physically lost? Not just momentarily lost, but lost to the point where you threw up your hands and admitted that you did not know where you were and you did not know how to get back to where you were before you got lost? Most men have a hard time admitting this because we believe that we are independent of others, and we do not need other people to survive. I believe this is genetic; something we cannot help. We will ride around for days before we will pull over and ask for directions. But, good things have come from men getting lost. Christopher Columbus was on his way to India, took a wrong turn and wound up in America, which was a couple of hemispheres away from his destination. To cover up his mistake, he named the natives “Indians”, swore his crews to secrecy, and told everyone that he had discovered a new route to India; one that took hundreds of days longer, but a new route nevertheless. And now we celebrate his mistake every year on Columbus Day, a national tribute to every man who is lost and will not admit it.
Please don’t tell anybody, but I have been hopelessly lost before. I know that this admission will probably get me kicked out of Men’s Town and I will probably have my Man Card revoked, but there it is. I have been lost and have dragged those who were following me down the same path to nowhere. Most of the times that I got lost were the fault of other people, of course. They did not tell me when to turn, or they forgot to read a road sign, or they did not read the map properly, or they …well, you get the picture.
But I have been lost a couple of times when I could blame no one but myself. The first such rare instance was on Grandfather Mountain. Melanie, my wife, and I were going to hike around a little bit on one of the trails leading from the top of the Mountain. We started down the trail with a group of about a dozen people. I, being the adventurous soul that I am, suggested to Melanie that we not walk with the crowd; that we take a different path. She assumed that I knew what I was doing and she followed me down this different trail. Hiking down this trail was a little steeper and a little more difficult, but I thought that it was fun being away from everyone and walking alone. Melanie did not think so and let me know it. After about 30 minutes, I realized that this trail was slowly getting smaller and smaller. Eventually the trail disappeared altogether. What looked like a trail was in reality a water path. I told Melanie not to worry, that all we had to do was turn around and follow the trail back to where we got on it. This did not work. I discovered that the water path had branched in a number of different directions, and that a number of different water paths fed into the water path that we were now on. We walked for what seemed hours, and the sun had begun to go down. Melanie was starting to realize that I was not Daniel Boone, and this was not good. I was reminded several times that we should have stayed on the main trail. Finally, after a couple of hours of searching, we heard voices and turned in that direction and found our way back to the main trail.
The second time that I was hopelessly lost was in France. We had taken the train from Paris to Rouen, and while in Rouen, I was in charge of buying train tickets to the American Cemetery in Normandy. The Cemetery is located in a small village named St. Laurent sur Mer. When I bought the tickets I asked for tickets to St. Laurent, not realizing that leaving off the sur Mer part was a huge mistake. We rode the train to St. Laurent. The train pulled to a stop and I noticed that we were the only people getting off. No sooner had we stepped off the train than I realized that we were in the wrong place, but by that time the train had begun to move and there was no stopping it. We watched it move down the tracks, and as it faded from view, I felt Melanie, Melanie’s mother and Melanie’s father staring at me. We were literally standing in the middle of a field alone. There was some sort of small, wooden building about 100 yards away, so we walked to it and entered. It was the train station. The woman behind the counter did not speak English, so I pulled out my dictionary and tried to ask her where we were, where the cemetery was, etc. She patiently explained that we were, in fact, in St. Laurent, but it was approximately 100 miles from the St. Laurent sur Mer where the American cemetery was. The train had taken us in the exact opposite direction from the place that we wanted to go. And I was to blame. To make matters worse, there was not another train stopping at this station for another day and there was no place to spend the night. So, with the help of this wonderful woman we arranged for a taxi to come 50 miles from La Havre and take us back there so we could catch a train back to Paris. We arrived at our hotel in Paris late that same evening, tired and weary.
Christopher Columbus found a new world trying to get to India. Sometimes being lost results in something good. Each time that I have been lost, it was the voices of other people or the kindness and patience of other people that helped me find my way back. Getting lost helps us realize how much we need other people, whether we want to admit it or not. It is our connection to others that keeps us on the right path; or if we happen to stray off that path, it is other people who help us get back on. It is the kindness and patience of others, given unconditionally, that help calm our storms and help us get back to a place of safety.
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