Often, as a pastor, you are honored to spend an important part of the journey with members of your parish or congregation, and these moments of the journey can be both the most challenging and the most rewarding. The past week has really reminded me, as a pastor, of such experiences. Moments apart, I received two calls. A young man I had the honor of walking with in an early part of his faith journey was killed instantly when he was hit by a car while on vacation with his family. My heart collapsed. It wasn’t supposed to happen. This earthly journey should not end so soon for him. Moments later, I received a notice that a friend’s wife had just given birth to their daughter, ironically about a week ahead of schedule. One trip ended way too soon and another started before it was planned.
Both events reminded me of the importance of travel in a real and raw way. It is about the journey for us here on Earth; this is how we share the journey with each other; this is how we lean on each other; how we create space for ourselves and, at the end of the journey, how we leave each other. The beginning and the end are accompanied by great emotion; the detail comes in the middle stages.
As I reflect on the life events of the week, I am reminded of the importance of being there for each other as well. Our presence in this journey of life is not correcting others thinking about a situation or the latest news cycle, not shouting who is wrong and who is right, not shouting or pointing fingers at each other. , or pointing out their wrongs on a social media page. It’s getting to know each other and making the journey with each other, side by side, shoulder to shoulder. As we know – not just in the Christian faith but in most, if not all religious beliefs, the journey is about respecting, understanding and loving each other. It makes coming home more enjoyable for everyone.
There’s another old phrase that calls us to “walk a mile in a neighbor’s shoes,” and I wonder, isn’t that what a life of empathy and understanding is? Are we not learning to feel each other’s hurts and sorrows, joys and excitements, if only we allow ourselves to walk and understand the path we walk together? Can’t we experience in a real and profound way what it means to live? However, know that walking the journey, walking a mile in someone’s shoes changes us. The lives of others begin to have an effect on our lives and how we view the world around us.
The young man who was beaten and killed this week has had an overwhelming number of physical challenges in his young life. He taught me not to pity him. Instead, by walking with him, I learned to be in awe of him. He so often brought a smile to the faces of all who knew him. He amazed the people he spoke to, or it would take time to get to know him as he was very smart, funny and curious. If you took the time to get to know him, he showed you how beautiful his journey was. He taught people a way of looking at life that overcame the most daunting challenges.
His career and his shortened life once again reminded me of the importance of living a life open to listening to others, open to understanding and mutual aid, open to overcoming barriers and relating to each other. What I’ve learned in life is that it’s hard not to love someone that you really take the time to get to know, to go through a bit of their journey with them and so I wonder, If we all took the time to put our energy into life’s journeys with those we meet, would there be so much discord in the world around us?
If you’ve lost someone, and I believe most readers have probably had that experience, you’ll quickly realize that the journey is the most important part. Hoping and praying, we all allow ourselves to walk each other home. This may be the best part of life for you.
Pastor Timothy Hogan-Palazzo, Saint Paul’s United Church of Christ, 1125 Mahoning St., Milton, PA 17847, www.spuccwm.org