My Summer Road Trips

By Jim Wallis 7-30-2009

For our family, summer is road trip time. Joy loves to drive, and our two boys, Luke and Jack, are veteran travelers - by land, air, and even sea! Long road trips are a great opportunity to talk, tell stories, laugh, read, knit, and watch movies.

I was born and raised in Detroit and like to get back there to visit family (three siblings and their kids are still there - now the much beloved "cousins"). This summer, we had an especially joyous reason for the trip - the wedding of my niece Kaellen to Daniel, a very popular addition to our family. They met as inner-city teachers in Detroit, serving some of the hardest to reach kids. Both are vocational educators and Daniel is now a principal in an experimental urban school across the state in Grand Rapids. Joy and I officiated. (She, the priest, does the ceremony and I do the sermon in the tag team marriages we increasingly do for young couples.) It was lovely to see a young couple actually getting married these days. We then all headed to northern Michigan for our annual family reunion week (except for the honeymooning couple)-siblings, kids, grandkids, and assorted girlfriends and boyfriends. My parents started the annual family reunion week, of course, but after they both passed, their five children decided to continue the tradition which has meant a great deal to our children, who all now have a deep sense of their extended family. And in these fragmented times, the strength of family is a great gift.

Then our family headed for the Chautauqua conference center in rural New York, between Erie and Buffalo. The large conference grounds on a gorgeous lake offer a beautiful, restful, and safe place to ride bikes and endlessly explore for an urban family like ours. I was the preacher and chaplain for the week, whose theme was "The Ethics of Capitalism." Friends like Michael Sandel, E.J. Dionne, Gar Alperovitz, Paul Raushenbush, and Katherine Marshall were among the other speakers for the week. A huge amphitheatre sits at the heart of the community, which becomes a Chautauqua "mega-church" of 4,000 people on Sundays, with more services and lectures during the week, and incredible musical offerings each night. My old friend Joan Brown Campbell is the Director of the Department of Religion, and I refer to her as the "Bishop of Chautauqua," which is one of the loveliest "dioceses" in America. One "Chautauquan" told me the place was like "Disneyland for adults," or at least adults who like creative worship services, stimulating lectures, enormously delightful music, and happy boys and girls clubs for the kids.

We are a baseball family and heard we were only days away from Induction Weekend at the National Baseball Hall of Fame, which, of course, is also in New York State. A quick check of the GPS found that it was on the way home--well, sort of. We fortunately got the last motel room in Cooperstown and headed to baseball's beloved shrine. Ricky Henderson, Jim Rice, and Joe Gordon were all ushered into the Hall of Fame, and 49 living members of the Hall showed up for the festivities and ceremonies. My son, Luke, was thrilled to see baseball legends such as Willie Mays, Reggie Jackson, Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith, Harmon Killebrew, Whitey Ford, and Bob Feller (who still can pitch at 90). Even Pete Rose showed up. And I got to see Al Kaline, the hero of my hometown Detroit Tigers when I was a Little Leaguer. Thousands turned out and it was amazing to see a whole town packed with such diverse people brought together by a love of baseball.

It's always good to get home after a long road trip and get back to normal summer days in D.C., but we are all looking forward to one more road trip in August before the start of school. Just love those road trips.

Jim Wallis is CEO of Sojourners.

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