August 8, 2014

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Like in the movies, each of us is on a road trip through life

Cynthia DewesIt’s the season for family road trips, which may be the reason why we just finished watching a rash of road trip movies we’d seen many years ago. We’ve certainly come a long way from the earlier “Road to …” movies made by Bob Hope and Bing Crosby.

Once again, we enjoyed the romance of Two for the Road as Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney warred and loved their way around Europe in a sports car to die for. They were an education in handling passionate love in or out of marriage.

And we laughed ourselves silly watching National Lampoon’s Vacation (rated “R”), as the Griswold family bumbled its way across the country. We missed our teenage kids whose hilarity had increased our own the first time we saw it.

And we’d forgotten how raunchy, yet funny and sweet, was the movie Little Miss Sunshine (rated “R”). Here the members of a dysfunctional family put aside their personal problems or ambitions in order to help their plain little girl fulfill her dream of winning a junior beauty pageant. They, and we, learn some valuable life lessons on the trip.

Maybe road trip stories appeal to us because they remind us of our own experiences on the journey of life. Admittedly, our life trips usually don’t include comic movie devices like carrying deceased relatives across the country in the car. But they bring subjects like relationships, goals and behavior to our attention in an entertaining way.

The first thing we need on a road trip is a good map. If we’re religious, we may use Christian, Jewish or other sources to guide us. Catholics have holy Scripture and the Eucharist and the support of the community of the faithful to help us along. Plus, we believe the Holy Spirit is our ultimate AAA.

People who think of life as a series of obstacles to be endured until an uncertain end may have a bumpier ride. Sometimes they base their travel decisions on whim or hearsay evidence or, as Scrooge put it, “a bit of bad beef.” Since they have no authority or arbiter of their behavior beyond their own ideas and experience, they’re at the mercy of chance. Thus, they face those series of obstacles.

Sometimes people plan unworthy destinations which lead them down unnecessary detours or treacherous paths. They may pursue money in order to make themselves happy, only to find they’re tempted to abuse others who get in their way, or to avoid doing business the hard way in favor of the easy but dishonest way. Or their pursuit of fame may end with deceit and insincerity rather than glamorous pleasure.

Perhaps a couple wants to plan a life trip around a satisfying ride with each other, and are surprised once again to be faced with decisions. Should they have a one-night stand, or get married “until it doesn’t work anymore,” or just live together? Should they have children? Clearly, their road map must be lacking something if it doesn’t display a direction toward individual and community fulfillment.

Now, to be sure we’re on the right road, we need to follow Burma Shave sign advice to “Use a Good Road Map,” “Plan a Desirable Destination” and “Find Worthy Companions” to accompany us. So using respect and concern for others in our search, we’ll find lifetime marriage partners and friends, as well as fulfilling work and the ability to raise happy, functional children. It’s a cheerful route.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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