A new friend of mine offered me “traveling mercies” before a trip a year or so ago. I had not heard the term before. I took it as a prayer or intention that I would enjoy the trip, be safe and be gentle with myself and others when I inevitably got a little tired or frustrated while traveling.
On my way back from seven days in Florida this past week I found myself thinking of that term as I reflected on my trip. Geraldine and I had driven from our Greenbelt home to FL together and visited friends. She then attended a conference over the weekend there and flew home while I drove the 1072 miles from Miami Beach back to Greenbelt. I had lots of time to reflect on this trip and “traveling mercies”.
I had eventually googled “traveling mercies” and learned it has several meanings. At its basic, it is a wish for safe travel home from the late 19th century when travel was more dangerous. Others see it in broader spiritual term – a reminder that we are always pilgrims on a journey back to our spiritual home which some call LOVE or God or the DIVINE Mystery. Mercies are prayers to both arrive safely at our earthly home and to be aware that our ultimate home is spiritual.
As I reflected on my past week of travel, I began to be aware of the many “traveling blessings or graces”. Or more simply, being out of my day-to-day routine at home, I could see more clearly the abundance of LOVE all around me. As recent posts have pointed out on other topics, being present means paying attention, noticing. Being on the road increases my ability and desire to notice. Our first stop heading south was to have lunch in NC with a 12-Step friend I had met by phone and had only seen in person twice. Through what 12 steps describe as sharing “experience, strength and hope”, we have become great friends. She’s in her 80s, is the eldest member of a large African American family and is a retired nurse from New York. Geraldine was delighted to meet her for the first time and share New York and nursing experiences.
We next spent four delightful days with friends in St Augustine, Florida. There is much to be said about the joy of hanging out with friends, sharing meals and experiences, laughing a lot, and just being. It is hard to miss the presence of LOVE both in sharing about our lives and in the present moment.
While in St. Augustine we visited Fort Mose Historic State Park. Having recently read Grizel Ubarry’s post on visiting slave camps in Africa, Fort Mose offered more details on America’s history with slavery and torture. The Fort became the home of former slaves from the British territory of North Caroline who were offered freedom if they escaped to the Spanish colony of Florida and became Catholic. One of the first occupants of Fort Mose and a founder of this freed slave community was former NC slave Francisco Garza and his Native American wife, Ana. Three generations of their family lived at Fort Mose and joined the Spaniards in battles with the British in order to protect themselves from returning to slavery.
A different stop on our visit was an afternoon at the St Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park. It is hard to imagine how spending time with hundreds if not thousands of alligators, crocodiles, turtles and native birds could be so inspiring. It was mating time for the huge storks, cranes, herons and other birds. They were busy making nests in the most creative ways. The beauty of the birds and the care they showed each other was awesome. It was a sunny day and a joy to watch the alligators and crocodiles come out of the water onto small pieces of land to sunbathe. They gently crawled around each other with respect, and when there was no room left, one would get up and move 100 feet deeper into the little island to make room. These huge animals we fear so much seemed to have a gentle way of being with each other!
Finally, as Geraldine headed to her conference, I traveled to Miami Beach for a few days to enjoy its warmer sun and ocean water. March on Miami Beach to me is heaven. There is so much beauty in nature, in the diverse people from all over the world who convene there, and in the gentle people who welcome guests and make my stay so pleasant. I have a favorite small hotel which is next door to a great deli. Everyone is welcomed as family.
An encounter with some construction workers on St Patrick’s day provoked sobering observation for me. While joking about me getting them a Guinness, one of the Black workers described his job as working on a plantation. Both his comment and my observing the breadth of poverty and near poverty I saw as I traveled north from FL reminded me of what I had read in bel hooks’ book, all about love. She quotes from Eric Fromm in The Art of Loving: “… the principle underlying capitalistic society and the principle of love are incompatible”. (p. 72)
I wondered why these very skilled workers building a high-rise condominium could not share in the profits. I wondered why the mostly women staff who made the deli so successful were likely paid minimum wages. I wondered about the various hotel workers in places we stayed and why their pay and the profits of the owners were so different.
So “traveling blessings” for me include lots of loving moments and also reaffirmations of the need to continue to work for a more just world, a world in which love is put into action through strides for social and economic justice for all segments in our society.
What an absolutely beautiful post Tom. The quote from Bell Hooks resonates so deeply. Thank you for your thoughtfulness and deep reflection. Know that you are doing your part to help create a more just society.
Thanks Kim, it was great to meet you and to spend time with you and your Mom. Thanks for the encouragement – same to you. Carry on!
Thanks for sharing Tom. I enjoyed reading your rambling reflections!
I enjoyed your travel log, Tom. The vignette depicting alligator behavior was intriguing. How often we judge by appearance, and forget to appreciate the inner core.
I celebrated St. Paddy’s with a Starbucks’s coffee and danish; I hope your worker-friends got to imbibe their “perfect pint.” 😉
Thanks Sally, I appreciate your refelctions! Tom
Thanks for letting us share your journey, Tom! I feel like we were with you part of the way. I’ve never been to Miami, but if I ever go, I may ask the name of the little hotel you mentioned..it sounds perfect! Maybe one day poverty may be eliminated in our country and the world, but that may have to be only in our dreams. We can keep plugging away at it though!
Thanks Sharon, yes travel is fun and we see a lot of folks with no option of travel for fun. The hotel is Circa 3900 at 39th and Collins Avenue, a block from the beach. And beach chairs come with the reservation! Be well, Tom
Tom, I continue to read your educational and at times personal reflections. They do cause me to think at a different level about my own experiences, including my travels. May God bless you both and thanks.
Pat Farrell Pat
Thanks Pat, great to hear from you and glad you find the posts useful. Best to your brother John.
I am not sure if we have ever met. I work at NHS and we are trying to continue to do the good work you started. Thank you for your foresight and continued work to make a more just world. I loved your blog. My husband & I are doing a pilgrimage walk in Italy this summer. I love the term traveling mercies and connect to this as we train for our walk. NHS has its 50th anniversary next year. Time flies!
Thanks Cathy, great to hear from you. I had spoken with Ann Sherrill about the 50th last year. I mailed her a copy of the first annual report I came across in cleaning some files. Not sure if she got it. All the best in planning the 50th. I had a wild idea recently for the anniversary. Given there is a more progressive governor and legislature in MD now, I wonder if NHS might call attention to the loan programs that worked so well for Patterson Park and Govans 50 years ago. If you dig in the files, you will find the following types of loans:
NHS Bank Particiaption loans with local banks. NHS originated thru RLF and bank 90% interest in loans at 3% or lower. NHS collected and paid off banks.
Stahe had a 6% rehab loan for purcahse rehab and renovations and City had a 6 or 7% REAL loan plus processed federal 312 loans which were at 3%.
Given the way billions of dollars move aroind this day, it seems like a great time to bring back affordable low interest loan funds that are easy to preocess! Just a thought!
Be well and enjoy Italy. Love to have you contribute a short guest contributor post on your trip! Tom