I have always been fascinated with trains. When I was a little girl, we traveled on them regularly back and forth from Virginia to North Carolina to attend family reunions. It always felt like a grand adventure. I loved the way they gently jostled me back and forth as they chugged down the track making clicking sounds as they passed over the joints of the rail. My grandfather spent many days on trains as a Railway Mailman for 42 years, and he would proudly explain his duties to me. There was a sparkle in his eyes as he spoke helping me to understand how much he truly loved what he did. It made me love trains even more…because of him. When I hear a train’s whistle today, it makes me yearn in a wistful sort of way for something that I can’t quite recapture.
We live near a railroad track that has long since seen its heyday for that mode of transportation. I am sure this particular track was once a busy corridor of train cars filled with people and freight making their way from from Atlanta and beyond. For the most part it is now an anachronism in the surrounding Athens suburbs. However late into the night as I snuggle beneath my covers, I can look forward to one lone ghostly excursion. The melancholy echo of its whistle breaks the nocturnal silence with its trailing wail. Is it real or imagined?
I believe that I have found yet another powerful reminder and metaphor for our lives. We are all moving down our various tracks toward destinations unknown. Some people travel with us, others are ahead or behind in this grand journey. We have gained wisdom through our many successes and failures. We can choose to hold onto that knowledge or we can pass it along. We can prepare those anxious travelers behind us for some of the stops we’ve made along our way, with landscapes that were either lush or barren. We can encourage visiting one stop over another. We can warn them about the dangerous curves and trestles high off the ground with sheer ravines on either side. We can give them a map…of sorts.
I have come to believe, in my latter years, that God most definitely has given us all of our travel experiences, both good and bad, so that we may help others. We may leave this planet with our treasure trove of experiences locked tightly inside of us being nothing more than a dim memory for self reflection. Or, we may use it to pour into the generation coming behind to help equip them for their journey…and just perhaps… leave the world a better place than we found it. We are a powerful resource. Every night as I hear that whistle, I am reminded of my place on the track and my
choice responsibility to help those travelers coming behind.
“In vain have you acquired knowledge if you have not imparted it to others.”