As I write this, I just got back from a trip to take my father-in-law’s ashes to leave them in a hole in the ground a few miles from where he was born in northern Indiana. I wasn’t alone. There were five in the minivan besides me: my mother-in-law, my wife and our three daughters. I was in good company.

As I write this, I just got back from a trip to take my father-in-law’s ashes to leave them in a hole in the ground a few miles from where he was born in northern Indiana. I wasn’t alone. There were five in the minivan besides me: my mother-in-law, my wife and our three daughters. I was in good company.

That part of Indiana is Amish country. Jim, my father-in-law, wasn’t Amish, but he grew up beside them and had his opinions of them, not all of which were politically correct.

The Amish have a different way of getting from here to there. We saw horses and buggies to be sure, but we also saw the Amish, beardless youths and grown men alike, on bicycles. But they have separated themselves out of society. They live a different way, although there are places where their path crosses ours.

We saw this at the Amish stores where we visited. If you go to an Amish store looking for a bargain, you will be disappointed. As Jim observed during his life, “They might be Amish, but they are also German and know what it’s worth.”

But if you are a person who lives a life close to the earth, you will find things in an Amish store that are of use to you.

I was in the checkout line behind an Amish woman who was talking to the Amish checkout girl in German. When my turn came, the girl totaled up my bill, and I presented her with my Visa Card.

“Is this debit or credit?” she asked, without so much as an accent. We’d met at the crossroads.

On the subject of paths, Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father, but through me.”

The word in that sentence that is translated as “the Way” is also used to refer to a road, a path, the bed of a river, or a journey. 

We are all on a journey. It begins when we are made by our parents and takes many turns. We begin in a state of total dependence on others as we draw life from our mother’s womb, and we rebel as when we are pushed screaming from that place of comfort into the cruelty of world. At the first as at the last, we see life through a veil of tears.

Our journey doesn’t lead to independence. No human can truly live the fullness of life in total separation from others. Every living creature is part of a greater whole. Our journey is to harmony with that greater whole.

Harmony is a dangerous word, but I don’t know a better one. Harmony sounds like sweet notes played on a violin not the squealing coming from the lungs of a newborn baby, but that squealing might be the closest to harmony that many ever come.

It takes wisdom to know what harmony is, but we all begin our journey naked and with our eyes closed, completely devoid of wisdom or knowing how to get it. It is as if we’ve stepped onto the soil of a foreign land which is having a civil war. We don’t know who the good guys are or who the bad guys are, and we’re at the mercy of those we meet first, at least for a while.

The Irish rapper Everlast has a line in the song “What it’s like” when he says, “You know where it ends usually depends on where you start.”  That has a lot of truth, but it’s also true that folks starting in the same place can wind up a world apart. This might have something to do with luck, with character, or with the choices we make — maybe all three, or maybe something else entirely.

I don’t know.

What I do know is that the trip isn’t optional, but some of us have good company.

Bobby Winters is Assistant Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Mathematics at Pittsburg State University.  He is pastor of the Opolis United Methodist Church.