Beliefnet
From July 2006 E-Newsletter by Alan Cohen. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For more information on Alan Cohen's books and programs, visit alancohen.com.

As many of us prepare for summer travels, we may get caught up in the details of planning, to the point of losing our peace.

How ironic that setting up something fun should distract us from fun!  Yet even as you head toward your destination you can find joy right where you stand.

Dee and I were in a business supply store we regularly visit, where a kind and knowledgeable salesman often helps us. This man has a certain back difficulty that causes him to hunch somewhat. After we spoke with him about some products, Dee noted to me, "Gosh, that fellow seems more bent over than the last time we saw him." Her comment shifted me out of my purchasing mode and into my heart. Yes, the man stood less straight than we remembered him. I realized that even as he served in his salesman role, he had a life. He had feelings, a family, and probably health concerns. There was so much more to him than the surface role we knew him in. I remembered a quote: "Be gentle with everyone, for everyone is fighting their own inner battle."

Passion is important, but so is compassion. The purpose of life is not just to get stuff done, but to connect with each other. He who dies with the most toys does not win. He who lives with the most joys, does.

I remember people in my life who rose above the illusion of busyness to connect with me. Like the time I arrived at the Miami airport after flying overnight. I was quite tired, did not feel so great, and headed for a snack bar for a bite. When the Hispanic waitress asked me for my order, I asked for some orange juice. The waitress looked at me kindly and asked, "Is that all you are going to have?  Why don't you eat something, honey?"  I swear she was channeling my mother!  In the midst of a hectic and chaotic environment, I felt loved and cared for. "Alright, I'll have a bagel and cream cheese," I told her. "That's better," she replied with a smile and went to get me some sustenance. Funny, many years later I remember her very clearly. God sends people to help you when you need them.

Sometimes you are the person giving the help and sometimes you are the one receiving it; both roles are important. The operative word here is "person."  It's about people, not things. Knowing, more than doing. Being, more than getting.

Do set out on your vacation and do have a great time. Just be sure to have a great time before you leave and along the way. Often the lessons we discover outshine the events we seek. Martin Buber noted, "All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware." You think you are going for one reason, but life has a bigger reason. When you recognize the deeper reason, the trip takes on far greater meaning and value.

When we go to the office supply store now, I take a few more moments with our favorite salesman. I ask him how he is, I look him in the eye, and I let him know I appreciate him and his services. I see his bent back, but even more important I see his spirit, which cannot be bent. Neither can yours, or mine, or anyone's, as we recognize that the real  journey is the one home.

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