As a youngster I always got excited at the prospect of taking a trip. Whether it was a day trip to Atlanta or a family vacation, anticipation the night before embarkation made sleep an elusive commodity.
We didn’t take a lot of trips, you see. Occasionally we’d visit family and friends in Atlanta and place flowers on family cemetery plots at special times of the year. We looked forward to one week each summer on Tybee Island, and visiting Williams Seafood — a place fondly remembered and the demise of which is still lamented by multitudes. One summer we went to Baltimore, and one year traveled to Detroit, visiting Daddy’s youngest brother, Ernie, as he announced baseball games for the Orioles before settling in for his 42-year run with the Tigers.
My fascination with geography and history undoubtedly sprang from thousands of trips I took, vicariously, via voracious reading. One summer some classmates took a train trip to Washington, D. C., Philadelphia and New York City; knowing their itinerary I followed their progress on a map, imagining in those days preceding cell phone cameras and the Internet what my friends were seeing.
Perhaps because of that, I still have a visceral sense of excitement when opportunities to travel present themselves. As a Boy Scout, I learned to be prepared and travel light, taking only what I needed and what could fit into my backpack.
As an adult, working for the busiest airline at the world’s busiest airport, I never ceased to be amazed at what people brought along with them for their trip of a lifetime.
It’s easy to tell the savvy traveler from the neophyte or the pompous. It’s much like comparing the first-class travelers from history’s grand, ocean-going luxury liners with the poor folks down in steerage. The rich had their trunks and even automobiles loaded by stevedores; the third-class had only the clothes on their backs and, perhaps, a small, cardboard grip.
Back then the portal for such a grand trip was a seaport; nowadays such expeditions begin mostly from airports.
Today’s road warriors carry a computer bag and drag one roller board case, students and experienced youth exploring the world tote mostly a simple back pack, while vacationers or the ostentatious always seem to bring along way too much.
Other trip influences include who paid for the ticket, and what traveler’s expectations are. Frugal folks who rarely travel may go along if someone else foots the bill; their expectations are revealed by what they pack.
Eighteen summers ago my wife received a grant to Berkeley from the National Science Foundation and Dow Chemical. Piling the kids into the van, we turned her academic opportunity into the trip of a lifetime for our children, visiting 33 national and state parks, Mexico and Canada. Those 1991 pictures often featured the same outfits, for we traveled light.
As that family trip unfolded, I realized that our short time here is meant to prepare each of us for the journey of a lifetime.
Every day we inch closer to the portal from which we’ll embark. When considering that journey, many — as Pascal points out — find the prospect so terrifying that they put up diversions to keep from thinking on it. Who will buy our ticket? What should we pack? Or is this just a dead end?
Philosophies and theologies abound. But, only Christianity teaches that our ticket has already been bought and paid for, and packing requires only acceptance of the gift.
For the spot where God and man come together is at the intersection formed by the cross upon which Jesus Christ was crucified: God’s ultimate gift of reconciliation with mankind.
Christ’s tomb, sealed with a boulder, guarded by the finest troops to ensure against a staged resurrection by extremists, is the portal for that ultimate trip.
This Easter morning, Christians celebrate that the stone was found rolled away, that Christ arose from the dead.
Even so, skeptics abound. Other philosophies proliferate.
It all comes down to what you believe.
This morning humanity moves, vicariously, toward the portal. Trudging past the cross, we contemplate the intersection it forms before the vast Universe, even as the multitudes ahead of us crest the hill and view the portal for the first time. Behind them, unable to see as yet, we hear cries of wonder, sighs of disappointment and strain for our first glimpse.
And so, on this Easter Sunday morning, in the privacy of your own heart, as you look upon the tomb, you see it as only you can.
You’ve been invited by the one who paid for your trip, in full.
So let me ask you, friend, as you gaze upon the tomb.
Is your stone rolled away?
Nat Harwell is a resident of Newton County. His column appears in The Covington News on Sundays.