IMG_1382Our final charge was stimulating, thought-provoking, challenging and gave us all lingering ideas. It was powerful enough to make us forget our eagerness to bolt to the exit door and catch the shuttle to the airport and our flights home. This work for all of us, but good work, very very good work.

Think about the shrinking number of our population entering college. Then, consider the even smaller number of college graduates who are going further and tackling graduate education. Finally, slice the numbers of those who venture into the world of postgraduate education in pursuit of their doctorates.

Of course that is not the end of my tracking. Now, consider that exclusive bunch who earn the credentials and amass the talent to teach those in higher education who pursue masters and doctoral degrees. Finally, wonder at those very few who have the honor to lead that faculty as Deans.

That was our group for three days in the wonderful city of Pittsburgh. Cloudy skies and drizzle shrouded the city of Steel. But, intellectual and scholarly conversation was flowing on the inside.

Heady ideas of the changing environment of our country entered our discussions. Challenges with trademark characteristics of our entering millennial students left us wondering. Collegiality of new friends expanded our thinking beyond our familiar ecclesiastical moorings.

Now, the airport stood before us. Thousands of travelers flooded the terminal. I didn’t see many who were carrying on our philosophical themes. But, these were without exception the very people that we were training seminary students to serve.

Then, a link appeared. First, it was beautiful sound. A youth choir was in the balcony singing, “God rest ye merry gentlemen”. Next, it caught my eye because of the sparkling lights. It was a beautifully decorated Christmas tree. Finally, the checker rang up my purchase at the news stand and smiled at me, “Merry Christmas!” she sparkled.

Traveling dulls the senses.  It pushes us into a bizarre state of fatigue that few of us really understand and none of us enjoy.  It has clear symptoms: sad affect, slow physical reactions and grumpy attitudes.

Yet, a Christmas tree with all of its sparkling lights, a clear sound of Christmas carols being sung by a choir and of course the cheery greeting of “Merry Christmas!” from a complete stranger makes the routine of a tiring travel day wonderfully special.  Merry Christmas, everyone!

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography