I woke up at 6:00 on Wednesday morning. I had filled the car with gas and packed the night before which is odd for me. I took Benjamin to school. Then I began the three and a half hour drive to the north.
I don’t get up there much anymore, I think it’s been four years, but northwest Iowa still feels like home to me. I listened to XM radio as I drove through rolling hills south of Storm Lake on Highway 71. The land flattens out to the north. The black dirt makes this farmland among the most fertile in the world. Although it was more than warm enough to farm, spring hasn’t arrived yet, so the land continued to rest.
I pulled into Grace United Methodist Church in Spencer. I served there from 2000 to 2003. Such a wonderful place. I talked to a group from 1:30 to 2:30 about Prayers from The Water’s Edge. I read a number of the prayers. We talked about them. And then I signed books until 4:15. I drove thirty-five minutes to my hometown of Laurens. I’ve driven these roads hundreds of times. My black Infiniti seemed out of place to the locals I’m sure. But, places like Silver Lake, where grandpa Adolf and I used to fish, were not out of place in my heart.
My mom had pork chops waiting for me. Hers are the best. These chops had apples and onions and cabbage. I usually don’t like to talk on a full stomach, but tonight would be an exception to that rule. I spoke at the library from 7:00 to 8:00 and signed books until 9:30 or so. An hour later, I began driving home through the darkness.
The best part of the trip for me wasn’t the scenery. It wasn’t selling all the books. It wasn’t talking about the book. It wasn’t the pork chop.
The best part of the trip was the people. I hadn’t seen most of the people in Spencer since 2003. I remembered all their names. I do like three things well and remembering names is one of them. Had a great visit with my old assistant and the pastor who is now serving there. There were a few people new to the church and some others from outside the church who were also there. It was great hearing old stories and new stories.
It’s been since 1988 since I had seen some of the people in Laurens. Twenty-nine years is too long. A woman from high school was there. A college student and her mom. My dad brought along one of his buddies. A few of my teachers. Lots of others. I remembered most of them. These are good people. They understand community. Their hospitality was wonderful. I wish I could have talked and listened to everybody longer than the couple minutes it takes me to sign a book well.
The earth God created is gorgeous. Books are wonderful. Pork chops are amazing. But there is nothing like people. Nothing. So be kind to each other. Respect each other. Listen well. Forgive quickly. And enjoy one another.