I stood alone at 2 a.m. at age 13 at the end rows of 20 acres of carrots. Why? My dad was a vegetable farmer in southern Minnesota and needed help spraying for weeds when air was still, and dew drops plentiful.
His tractor-sprayer was at the far end of the field. No moon, just millions of stars and blackness. Then, hearing a mournful train whistle to the west, I pondered: “Will I ever ride a train, fly in a plane and see the world?”
This kind of wondering, wandering spirit is found in human beings. It motivated original Africans to migrate to Europe and Asia, and European explorers to our Western Hemisphere. And humans are still on the move.
Many reasons: hunger, shelter, safety, religious or political oppression, and to improve their lot in life. (For a few, to spy and do harm.) Thus, countries have immigration laws, use passports, and in the extreme try barriers like the Great Wall in China and President Donald Trump’s push for a border wall on the Mexican border.
Inside each of us are two natures with differential ends: 1. to retain the status quo, maintain stability and enjoy present peace of mind and 2. to desire betterment, adventure, entertainment and exploration of the unknown.
The latter nature plays out in most American lives. That is why we attend sporting events, peruse travel brochures, tour overseas and conduct scientific research. Such curiosity had me by my tail in that carrot field.
Recently, my 84-year-old body was awakened in the middle of the night by a train whistle close to our Minnetonka home, and this question kept me awake for a long time — “What have my life travels taught me?”
Humans are more alike, than not. Biologically, our bodily functions are identical, including means of reproduction. Our looks (colors, hair, skin texture, body shapes, etc.) draw from both mating adults. (Billy Graham was once quoted as saying that if the Lord tarries, all human skin color is likely to be a brown shade.)
Life essentials are universal — food/clothing/shelter, medical care, work, security, justice, religion of one’s own choosing, and reasonable hope and dreams for the future. Clearly, there is yet much imbalance in distribution.
We prize our families and love our children. Every day we make individual and group choices. We pray for virtues like forgiveness, patience, diligence and humility, but simultaneously deal with deadly sins like envy, greed, pride and wrath.
These diverse ends and means produce abundant crops, schools, beautiful cities with towering skyscrapers and lovely parks, and, simultaneously, pain/suffering (poverty, divorce, murder, war, pollution, addictions, etc.).
Another observation: Once you take a Caribbean cruise, join one travel group or visit a museum, restaurant or stay in a hotel, your inbox is forever filled with enticing advertisements. They cater; we consider and go.
For me as a lad, turning those travel dreams into reality was a long wait. By luck, or divine plan, a teacher stopped me in the hallway two weeks before high school graduation and asked, “Draayer, what are your fall plans?” I replied, “Farm with dad.” He said, “Do you realize that you have the brainpower to go to college?”
One week later, my cousin told me he heard in his church that Bethel College was holding an open house for seniors and his folks said he could take the family Buick for the 100-mile trip to St. Paul. Want to come?
Two years at Bethel College and two at the University of Minnesota, I earned my license as an educator. I accepted a job offer in Battle Creek — a big city job, across Lake Michigan, with closer access to the East Coast destinations. Three years later, the U.S. Air Force flew my wife and me to Japan to teach dependent children in Yokota and Tachikawa air bases. On weekends, we traveled mountain roads and gained life-long Japanese friends.
The following decades, we traveled (at our expense) for short periods to U.S. states and many countries. We invite overseas college students to our home on holidays and host global guests for short and longer stays. Travel has helped to open our eyes, minds and hearts; yet, every day we discover more room to grow in our understanding and commitment to the brother-sisterhood of all humankind.
In sum, travel introduces new into our lives, but we can never escape from our past. Like a mighty flowing river, our creek-like beginning and yesterday’s meanderings make us who we are today. Our oldest grandchild of five just departed from Minneapolis to live and work in Seattle. We said, “Bon voyage” with tears in our eyes.