I suppose that much of my life has involved some degree of imagining what comes next. When I was a teenager, significant energy was devoted to imagining what it would be like to have a driver’s license. I thought about how it would expand my freedom, give me access to new activities and relationships, and enable me to travel faster, farther, and more independently than before. As soon as I had my driver’s license, I began to imagine what it would be like to have my pilot’s license.

Although my memories aren’t as clear, I suppose that I imagined having my own bicycle before I got my first bike. I probably imagined going to Kindergarten and to elementary school. My older sister was always a couple of years ahead of me, so I had a source of information about those activities.

When I was a camper, I imagined being a counselor. When I was a counselor, I imagined being the camp manager. When I was the camp manager, I imagined being an ordained minister. I imagined graduation ceremonies before I earned degrees. I imagined married life before our wedding day.

Part of being human is thinking about the future. Our imaginations empower us to work to bring about desired outcomes. Despite the advice not to “waste time with daydreaming,” exercising one’s imagination can lead to productive results.

Interesting to me is that I never spent much time imagining what retirement would be like. There were a few times, when the stress of working was intense, or when I was frustrated with the pace of change in the institutional church, when I thought that it might be pleasant to be done with all of that. Imagining retirement for me, however, never involved imagining life outside of the church. I will always be a part of a congregation and will participate in a variety of different roles as my circumstances change.

I now find myself retired and I don’t know for sure what I imagined, but it isn’t quite the way I thought it would be. Today we leave our home in the middle of an unprecedented heat wave and drive across hundreds of miles of hot country towing our camper. Our truck is air conditioned and in good mechanical condition. Our trailer has new tires and the wheel bearings were just packed. Still, there might be some who would say today is a good day to stay put and wait until cooler temperatures before proceeding. I might agree with them, but we have a schedule to keep. Part of being retired is being able to help my sister prepare for a family gathering. Part of being retired is being able to be present at the gathering. On the other hand, most of the folks gathering will not be retired. Our nieces and nephews who are coming are in the midst of their active careers and have made time for the gathering.

The next couple of days of driving are just the start of a month-long trip for us. In my imagination being retired might mean that we would have six weeks to travel this distance and a slower pace. But being retired doesn’t mean that one has no schedule. The lives of other people are still important to us and giving them respect means that we pay attention to the events in their lives and the timing of their schedules.

I think that as long as we are alive, there will need to be some adjustments to meet the schedules of others. I don’t mean to be complaining about this trip. We are incredibly privileged to be able to take a journey this size. And it isn’t the first time I’ve made such a trip. After graduating from college our son was living in Portland, Oregon and was accepted to attend graduate school at the University of North Carolina. I was actively working at the time, but I responded to his invitation to help him move. I took a few days off from work and drove from Rapid City to Portland, loaded up a pickup and rented a tow dolly for his car. Then I drove back to Rapid City. After filling the pulpit for worship and doing some work at the office, we took more vacation time and drove from Rapid City to Chapel Hill, North Carolina. We unloaded and returned the tow dolly and then drove back to Rapid City. Shortly after our return, I made a run to Billings, Montana and back. It was more than 6,000 miles in less than a month. I didn’t drive very fast for much of the trip because I was towing a car. It all worked out despite encountering some big thunderstorms and heavy rain on our journey.

The joke about our son picking his graduate school for its distance from his undergraduate school has faded. It was replaced by a joke about his sister not living on the same continent during stints in England and Japan. Now that she is in South Carolina, we joke about our two children choosing opposite corners of the continent. Some of our most wonderful and fun adventures have been traveling to destinations prompted by decisions that our children have made.

There is a Chinese proverb attributed to Lau Tzu, probably mistranslated into English, that says, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Our journey of around 6,000 miles will begin with less than 400 miles today and a little more than 400 miles tomorrow. Those first 800 miles will bring us to my sister’s place where we will linger for a few days and enjoy a family gathering. It is a route that I’ve driven quite a few times - including five times last year as we were moving from Rapid City. We won’t be as uncomfortable as we were decades ago when we made the trip in a Ford Pinto that did not have air conditioning. I remember that as a very hot trip.

When we made that trip, I couldn’t imagine that we would one day live at this end of the trip and be setting forth across the continent with enough leisure to explore and enjoy new adventures along the way. I can’t imagine what will come years from now when our lives will have continued to change in dramatic ways.

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