We are entering into one of my favorite times of year. The warm days, chilly nights, and astonishing colors are enveloping us all. This Fall I have been thinking about another time a number of years ago when we lived in New Hampshire serving another parish.
My wife Regina and I took a hike up a long, steep and muddy trail on a gorgeous crisp and cool fall day. We were happy, glad to be together, and going along at a nice pace. I took in all of the scenery and each step I took was filled with gratitude for the wonder of God’s creation. But about 30 minutes into the hike things changed.
I began to take my mind off of the trees. I started to think about the slow pace we were walking. I wondered just how long the hike was going to take.
It was then that I noticed that Regina was lagging far behind me. I stopped and waited for her to catch up with me. When she finally did, I said, “If we walk faster, we will get to the top sooner. Why don’t we pick up the pace?”
She then asked me, “Why are you in such a hurry. It is a beautiful day. We are here to hike and enjoy the leaves and what difference does it make when we get to the top?” Although I knew she was right, I huffed and puffed and continued racing up the trail.
I think I reached the peak 20 minutes before she did. When Regina did eventually reach the peak, she sat next to me and together we took in the view of the peaks of distant mountains in New Hampshire and Vermont. And it was then that I said to Regina, “I have come to the conclusion that there are three kinds of hikers.”
“There are those who hike with only the destination in mind. They pay most attention to where they are headed and don’t spend much time thinking about and reflecting on the journey in getting there. Because they are so focused on where they are going, they really miss out taking in what is right in front of them. I am sorry to say that today this has been me.”
Then I said, “There are also those who hike with only the journey in mind. They pay most attention to where they are right at the moment and don’t spend much time thinking about where they are headed. Sometimes they are so focused on taking in what is right in front of them that they lose sight of where they are going.”
“Finally, there are those who hike with both the journey and destination in mind. They pay attention to where they are at the moment and where they are headed at the same time. Not only do they reach their destination, but they take the time to notice what is in front of them on the way.”
As I have thought back to that hike in New Hampshire, I have learned a lot. I have come to realize that just as there are different ways to take a hike in the mountains, there are different ways to live our journey in life. And what we pay attention to the most determines what our journey is like.