As children our journeys begin. They set us upon a road that will surprise and teach, chasten and inspire. Soon enough, if we make it this far (not all do, we will have learned), our legs stretch into adulthood. On occasion we will look back at the ground we have covered and even at the way we have walked it. We might look more carefully forward too, aware not only that the way we walk matters but also that at a time and place unknown our journeys will end.
The boy in this photo is walking a road near the Ethiopian town of Jinka. We were walking together, on about a ten-mile trek, and after a few miles he turned and asked if he could carry my backpack a while. Along with two other people we walked, enjoying conversation and company and the scenery along the way. It was a kind thing that the boy had asked.
We real people have our journeys. Thankfully, so do characters in literature. In Frederick Buechner's novel Godric, we follow the life of a twelfth-century English holy man (named Godric) who wasn't always so holy. "I started out as rough a peasant's brat and full of cockadoodledoo as any," he recounts. "I worked uncleanness with the best of them or worst. I tumbled all the maids would suffer me and some that scratched and tore like weasels in a net. I planted horns on many a goodman's brow and jollied lads with tales about it afterward....A flatterer I was. A wanderer. I thieved and pirated. I went to sea. Such things as happened then are better left unsaid."
Looking back on the day he left his parents and siblings to go see the world, Godric recalls how first a priest named Tom Ball had come to the house. The priest had come to give a blessing, and to share these words:
"This life of ours is like a street that passes many doors," Ball said, "nor think you all the doors I mean are wood. Every day's a door and every night. When a man throws wide his arms to you in friendship, it's a door he opens same as when a woman opens hers in wantonness. The street forks out, and there's two doors to choose between. The meadow that tempts you rest your bones and dream a while. The rackribbed child that begs for scraps the dogs have left. The sea that calls a man to travel far. They all are doors, some God's and some the Fiend's. So choose with care which ones you take, my son, and one day—who can say—you'll reach the holy door itself."