What do you think of when you hear the word “journey?” Merriam-Webster defines it this way:
journey a noun jour·ney | \ ˈjər-nē \ plural journeys
1 : something suggesting travel or passage from one place to another
2 : an act or instance of traveling from one place to another : TRIP
Journey is not a word we use often, and I think that’s because a journey is more serious, more monumental than a trip or even travel. A trip is routine…a trip to the store, a trip to the doctor, etc. A journey is something we plan for and anticipate, something more calculated and purposeful.
A journey involves more serious consideration. How long will it take, what do I need to bring along, how difficult will this journey be, do I dare subject my family either by preparing them for my absence or by taking them along?
I don’t think the vast majority of people undertake a journey lightly. Journeys are usually something we consider necessary.
I’ve been thinking a lot about journeys while I do my family research. Everyone I know in my life is here because of a journey someone took years ago to reach this country, a country of freedom and opportunity. For the most part, those journeys were dangerous and difficult and involved leaving an entire existence behind to create a new future.
I seriously doubt any of those long-ago travelers just jumped on a tiny ship thinking, “What a lark this will be. When I arrive, all my troubles will be solved.”
I’m pretty sure they knew, or at least suspected, some of the dangers they were facing. I’m also pretty sure they looked at the lives they were living and the futures they were facing and made a hard decision that that sort of life was not what they wanted for themselves or their families.
Of course, there were always those few, a small percentage, who came because they heard the streets were paved with gold, or because they thought their past misdeeds would not follow them or because they thought this was a fertile new ground for lawless activities.
But that was not the majority. The majority was us, or rather those ancestors that paved the way for us. Those who survived the journey. We live in cities built by those survivors; we hold jobs at occupations that became possible because they came and created businesses or grew food and other crops or provided services necessary in the new country.
We are because they were, because they wanted a better life for their children, and because they took the risks, they journeyed, and they survived.
Why do we now assume that anyone who undertakes a similar journey today has not considered the risks? How can we forget that we are the children of immigrants who fled poverty and starvation and tyranny and injustice? All of us; each and every one.
Happy Fourth of July.