Not all who wander…

“Not all those who wander are lost” is a line from J. R. R. Tolkien’s book, Lord of the Rings. The line describes a king named Aragorn who is destined to someday regain his lost, ancestral throne. He travels for years disguised as a wandering nomad to learn his enemies’ secret plans.

There are three good things I’ve learned about wandering… and one very sad.

1. Wandering can be a simple and wonderful pastime. Remember the song?

I love to go a-wandering,
Along the mountain track,
And as I go, I love to sing,
My knapsack on my back.
I love to wander by the stream
That dances in the sun,
So joyously it calls to me,
“Come! Join my happy song!”

2. When wandering becomes travelling – going someplace far away on purpose – it can even bring you wisdom. Mark Twain, once a Mississippi riverboat pilot in his youth, discovered this…“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.”

3. Wandering and travelling are also the beginnings of exploring. Author T. S. Eliot once said, “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

And there’s the sad part. When you come home from a long time gone and far away, things will be different. Your travels may have brought you new insights. You may understand the home you came back to in a different way, but in some way, once you go away, you can never quite come home again, at least not to the one you left. Home will be different and so will you.

This week your Jamestown Gazette is asking you to think about welcoming home some very special people. They are people whose “far away” was so alien, so dangerous, so unforgettable, they couldn’t help bringing some of it back with them in both their waking and sleeping dreams.

Men and women in the U.S. military sometimes bring the sadness and terrors of war home with them. They saw and did terrible things most of us could not do… and they did it for us. Sometimes they were things they would rather not even be thanked for.

They need welcome more than thanks. Our cover story this week is a call to come beside them, to help them come home in mind and spirit as well as in body.

Let’s make sure that welcoming is a kind of healing, it is more than words. It’s a celebration. It’s a sharing of what makes home a good place to be again. Friends, good work, and good times, just for a start.

Welcome home, good people, we’re glad you’re back.

And of course, enjoy the read.

Walt Pickut