A TRIP TO ALSACE

Along the French and German border, a photo gallery

It’s time for a new adventure to France and Germany so I thought I would revisit a few of the pictures from the last trip.  I have made similar trips in recent years to sites in the Alsace region of France.  The reason for these trips is not just the scenery or historic sites.  It is something even more important.  This was explained on SERENDIPITY in “Where Would You Travel?”

The last trip went from Chicago to New York with a five hour lay over.  I explained to my friend that spending vacation with him was the only reason I would spend 5 hours in JFK airport.  From there it was on to Frankfurt, Germany and a two hour lay over waiting for the Lufthansa bus to Strasbourg, France.  The bus arrived near the Strasbourg train station two and one half hours later.  There my friend collected me for our trip back to his town.

You can go to Paris and connect by train to Strasbourg.  The trip is just as long and I did not believe the connection would be as easy.  Now there is a train from Charles De Gaulle airport direct to the Strasbourg station which means I would arrive at the same spot.  They did not have this train until recent years so perhaps it is a better way to go.  I let price and connection time determine which airport to use to go to Alsace.  This time it is American Airlines to Frankfurt via Charlotte and a return on Aer Lingus via Dublin.  All of this is on a British Airways ticket.  I guess there is no good explanation for how the travel industry sells us airline tickets.

Click on any image for a larger view and go through the gallery.

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LIVING IN TWO PLACES

If you could choose only two places to live, would one of them be away from winter weather? Perhaps you would avoid the blizzards of winter.

SERENDIPITY

A Tale of Two Cities, by Rich Paschall

Recently The Daily Prompt asked this question: “If you could split your time evenly between two places, and two places only, which would these be?”  Normally I am not a Daily Prompt kind of guy.  I am on the subscriber list, but usually by the time I read the email notice, it is a day or two later and I just delete.  This one sounded rather intriguing, so I stashed it away for later use.

St Petersburg bridgeIf you have been visiting this space regularly, you may have noticed that Marilyn responded to the question when is was posted over a week ago.  If you read SERENDIPITY, her choices would not have been a surprise to you.  If you missed it, you can run right over there now and read her response.  You will find it here.  Don’t forget to come back!

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A TRIP TO ALSACE

Along the French and German border, a photo gallery

Last week we made no stop at the Sunday Night Blog because we were stopping at sites in France while visiting friends.  I have made similar trips in recent years to sites in the Alsace region of France.  The reason for these trips is not just the scenery or historic sites.  It was something even more important.  This was explained on SERENDIPITY last Sunday in “Where Would You Travel?”

The trip went from Chicago to New York with a five hour lay over.  I explained to my friend that spending vacation with him was the only reason I would spend 5 hours in JFK airport.  From there it was on to Frankfurt, Germany and a two hour lay over waiting for the Lufthansa bus to Strasbourg, France.  The bus arrived near the Strasbourg train station two and one half hours later.  There my friend collected me for our trip back to his town.

You can go to Paris and connect by train to Strasbourg.  The trip is just as long and I did not believe the connection would be as easy.  Now there is a train from Charles De Gaulle airport direct to the Strasbourg station which means I would arrive at the same spot.  They did not have this in past years so perhaps it is a better way to go.  I will let price and connection time determine which airport I use next time I go to Alsace.  Whenever that may be will not be soon enough while good times with friends await.

Click on any image for a larger view and go through the gallery.

Purpose

What is my purpose?  It is not really to rerun my favorite columns from last year, but I am doing that again.  This appeared last summer amid reflections on “why am I here?”  I concluded that it is simple, really, but I continue to wonder nonetheless.  When you get to the end, be sure to watch the student video of Avenue Q and the song of the same title as above, “Purpose.”

Why am I here?

Certainly you have asked yourself this question. Perhaps it was many times. You could have been sitting in a boring class that seemed to have no relation to real life. If you went on to college there may have been several of those that you could not avoid because they were listed as “requirements.” “Reflections on Man,” for example, may sound like something meaningful, but I am pretty sure my only reflection was on the meaning of the course itself. “Philosophy and Religion” as well as “Behavioral and Social Sciences” requirements provided me with plenty of opportunities to ask, “Why am I doing this?” On its lowest level, I guess you could say I was doing if for the grade.
Family gatherings can also drive you to ask our topic question. Good old Aunt Pearl may compel your attendance at her twice annual family gatherings. That would be the one without music or television where the adults would try painfully to keep some sort of conversation going. Her cookies and hard candies just were not enough to keep you from wondering why you continue to attend these family gatherings that seemed forerunners to family wakes. By the time Aunt Pearl passes, you will feel like you have already attended her wake on many occasions. After the kids get hyped up on candy, they may provide some comic relief to go with Aunt Pearl’s annoyance (or passing). The conclusion may still be, “Why Lord? Why?”
Of course, you may find yourself at one holiday party when you know a better one is going on elsewhere. The reason may be that it is some sort of social obligation. Still you wonder why you are at Orville’s party when Wilbur is so much more fun. Even though the holidays usually seem to race right by with January and February lurking around the corner, time seems to stand still at Orville’s party, leaving you to wonder “Why am I here?”
For the last dozen or so years, I have thought of this question on the grand philosophical scale. That is, I have literally wondered why I am here, on earth, in this place, at this time. I figure there must be a higher calling, if I could just find out what that is. In Catholic grade school, we were taught to seek our vocation in life. Now when they call to pray for vocations, they generally mean they need more religious to join up. Still we all may think “Why am I here?” You might have the pleasant thought that it is because your mommy and daddy wanted you, but in my case, I am pretty sure that is not it. If you think it is because the stork brought you, you are either from Alsace or too young to be reading this blog.
In church we read out the intentions or invocations. These are prayers where we call on the Lord to help us. One at the end usually goes like this, “For the intentions we hold in the silence of our hearts (pause), we pray to the Lord.” In recent years this pause was where I filled in a request for acceptance, which has to do with chronic foot pain, and a desire to have the answer to the question on why I am here. There must be some reason beyond tossing off clever quips on social media sites.
There is a priest whose sermons never leave me with the “why am I here” feeling. It almost seems like he is just talking to me. So I confessed to him one day that I felt there must be a grand plan. I felt frustrated that I did not know it even though I prayed for the answer. Of course, he urged me to keep an open mind and be receptive. What else could he say? He was not going to pass along God’s response. No voice was coming to us from a cloud. No one will give us a 140 character response on twitter. He did the only thing he could, he listened.
For some years that followed, I talked with the good Father at our parish and then a few times at his next assignment. He is even a facebook friend now, despite the fact he could not answer the greatest question of life. I remained open to the answer, whatever it might be.
In the meantime, I thought I would just take whatever reasonable opportunity I could to help people out and keep my ears open. It reminded me of the frustration felt by the Bishop at the beginning of the holiday classic The Bishop’s Wife. At his wit’s end at not finding what he needed to build the cathedral, he prays, but listen to what he prays for. He needs guidance. (SPOILER ALERT: You have to notice he was not praying for the cathedral, even if he thought he was.)
Just like our movie hero, it finally came to me. I was a bit surprised that it took so long. It was there all along. Unlike Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia, I did not have to travel the world for the answer, nor did I have to go to Oz. While I was lending a helping hand, and enjoying new adventures with some of my friends, new and old, I discovered something. It was never one great thing that I was supposed to do. It was a lot of little things, and they would add up to the reason why, and they have. In case I have not been clear let me just state it this way, “Do the next right thing.” That’s it. Really! As you move from adventure to adventure, helping when asked and finding help when needed, you will see the answer that was never to be had at Aunt Pearl’s house. Check below the video.

“No, Henry, you prayed for guidance, and that is what you have been given.”

Friends

There is no over estimating the value of friends in your life. While you hope immediate family will always be there for you, in the mobile society in which we live they may not always be nearby. Your personal support network needs to include friends to whom you can turn in times of need. When I was younger and moved from apartment to apartment several years in a row, my friends were there to help me move. They were certainly pleased when I landed at my present location and stayed put. The important thing was their willingness to be there for me. It is a comfort to know that.
Having friends to listen at the right times is also of great importance. You may stubbornly think that you need to bear an emotional or spiritual burden on your own, but it does not need to be that way. Good friends will listen They will offer advice when asked. Those not willing to hear you may need to be categorized as acquaintances or casual friends. It is OK to have plenty of them in your social circles. Good friends will populate your close personal circles along with your immediate family. They become your “extended family” which is so important in today’s world
Internet friends can now comprise part of your personal life. It seems an interesting phenomenon to me to have such friends. While a great deal of caution must go into cultivating this sort of friendship, it can have its own rewards. You may meet people with whom can can correspond on a personal level. They may be able to help at various intellectual levels. Right now I believe I have three people on my facebook that I only know through the internet. Two of them I have known for years and perhaps some day we will actually meet. All three live in different countries.
I have met someone I had known for years just through shared internet experiences, all good, and personal correspondence. When we met he came with his roommate to visit. I had told him years earlier not to meet a new person alone, so this was fine by me. It turns out they are great people and now good friends. I consider myself lucky to have met them, although I still feel this sort of thing, meeting internet friends and expanding the friendship, is more the exception and not the rule.
My former place of employment had given me the opportunity to meet students from other countries though their internship program. In addition to attending local sports events with many of them, I have been able to keep in touch with some via facebook. In fact I am currently in France visiting one of my best friends and a former intern following our Olympic tour this past week. Email, Skype and facebook have allowed us to keep in close touch even though we are thousands of miles apart.
“You have more friends than I know people,” my brother told me at our mother’s wake. That’s because the funeral home was filled with an absolute gaggle of our relatives and my friends. My brother had moved away decades earlier so he did not know a lot of these people. I have thought about his comments a number of times since then. I used to tell people, “I have friends from 18 to 80.” This was largely due to our parish, community groups and even the internet. I guess I am lucky in all this to have so many great people as friends. Be open to friendships as they enrich your life.

A castle in Orschwiller, Alsace, France

Why am I here?

Certainly you have asked yourself this question. Perhaps it was many times. You could have been sitting in a boring class that seemed to have no relation to real life. If you went on to college there may have been several of those that you could not avoid because they were listed as “requirements.” “Reflections on Man,” for example, may sound like something meaningful, but I am pretty sure my only reflection was on the meaning of the course itself. “Philosophy and Religion” as well as “Behavioral and Social Sciences” requirements provided me with plenty of opportunities to ask, “Why am I doing this?” On its lowest level, I guess you could say I was doing if for the grade.
Family gatherings can also drive you to ask our topic question. Good old Aunt Pearl may compel your attendance at her twice annual family gatherings. That would be the one without music or television where the adults would try painfully to keep some sort of conversation going. Her cookies and hard candies just were not enough to keep you from wondering why you continue to attend these family gatherings that seemed forerunners to family wakes. By the time Aunt Pearl passes, you will feel like you have already attended her wake on many occasions. After the kids get hyped up on candy, they may provide some comic relief to go with Aunt Pearl’s annoyance (or passing). The conclusion may still be, “Why Lord? Why?”
Of course, you may find yourself at one holiday party when you know a better one is going on elsewhere. The reason may be that it is some sort of social obligation. Still you wonder why you are at Orville’s party when Wilbur is so much more fun. Even though the holidays usually seem to race right by with January and February lurking around the corner, time seems to stand still at Orville’s party, leaving you to wonder “Why am I here?”
For the last dozen or so years, I have thought of this question on the grand philosophical scale. That is, I have literally wondered why I am here, on earth, in this place, at this time. I figure there must be a higher calling, if I could just find out what that is. In Catholic grade school, we were taught to seek our vocation in life. Now when they call to pray for vocations, they generally mean they need more religious to join up. Still we all may think “Why am I here?” You might have the pleasant thought that it is because your mommy and daddy wanted you, but in my case, I am pretty sure that is not it. If you think it is because the stork brought you, you are either from Alsace or too young to be reading this blog.
In church we read out the intentions or invocations. These are prayers where we call on the Lord to help us. One at the end usually goes like this, “For the intentions we hold in the silence of our hearts (pause), we pray to the Lord.” In recent years this pause was where I filled in a request for acceptance, which has to do with chronic foot pain, and a desire to have the answer to the question on why I am here. There must be some reason beyond tossing off clever quips on social media sites.
There is a priest whose sermons never leave me with the “why am I here” feeling. It almost seems like he is just talking to me. So I confessed to him one day that I felt there must be a grand plan. I felt frustrated that I did not know it even though I prayed for the answer. Of course, he urged me to keep an open mind and be receptive. What else could he say? He was not going to pass along God’s response. No voice was coming to us from a cloud. No one will give us a 140 character response on twitter. He did the only thing he could, he listened.
For some years that followed, I talked with the good Father at our parish and then a few times at his next assignment. He is even a facebook friend now, despite the fact he could not answer the greatest question of life. I remained open to the answer, whatever it might be.
In the meantime, I thought I would just take whatever reasonable opportunity I could to help people out and keep my ears open. It reminded me of the frustration felt by the Bishop at the beginning of the holiday classic The Bishop’s Wife. At his wit’s end at not finding what he needed to build the cathedral, he prays, but listen to what he prays for. He needs guidance. (SPOLIER ALERT: You have to notice he was not praying for the cathedral, even if he thought he was.)
Just like our movie hero, it finally came to me. I was a bit surprised that it took so long. It was there all along. Unlike Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia, I did not have to travel the world for the answer, nor did I have to go to Oz. While I was lending a helping hand, and enjoying new adventures with some of my friends, new and old, I discovered something. It was never one great thing that I was supposed to do. It was a lot of little things, and they would add up to the reason why, and they have. In case I have not been clear let me just state it this way, “Do the next right thing.” That’s it. Really! As you move from adventure to adventure, helping when asked and finding help when needed, you will see the answer that was never to be had at Aunt Pearl’s house. Check below the video.

“No, Henry, you prayed for guidance, and that is what you have been given.”