Day 11 – Light, Despair, Hope

Sean’s Journal: Hello Dad & Vince. Dad, I appreciate our phone conversations. I’m glad to hear the new home is coming along and my sisters are doing well. As an FYI, I keep some rough notes of the routine happenings of the day, but this blog forces me to identify the highlights of my journey and to write these down more coherently.  I hope it’s working. BTW: Ellen and I are staying in touch via text and a couple of phone calls. I like her philosophy of life. 

University of Notre Dame. As I head across Ohio, I realized that I had missed something in my hurry to cross Indiana. On I-80/90, I was just a little north of the South Bend area where the University of Notre Dame is located. Utah football fans and teams know The Fighting Irish. I thought about my mom and wish I had stopped to acknowledge her and this great Christian institution. Anyway, at a rest stop, I visited UND online. It is a great school.

Northeastern Ohio. With the Cleveland area on my horizon, I remember two things about northeastern Ohio. Vince, you told me about the tough times many communities have experienced since the 1980’s in what was then called the “Rust Belt.” I’m sure these folks hate the term as the same area was once America’s manufacturing heartland. However, there are plenty of old factories that are closed and rusting away. Secondly, I have also done some reading about Ohio’s serious problems with drug addiction. I decided that, if I want to know what happiness means to Americans, I’d better do a reality check on one of the areas of the country where folks are struggling with multiple socio-economic factors. 

I took a detour from I-90, south via I-77, and eventually headed back north via State Highway 44 to get to the Kirtland area. This proved to be a true heartland tour. I drove down to Akron, then Canton, and through the small towns along my way there and back. I stopped and ate at a couple of local cafes, not the fast-food spots. The crowds were very diverse, both culturally and economically. I heard everything from emerging optimism to downright despair. The saddest thing was to sit with a couple who had lost two children to drug overdoses. Some folks were angry at Washington politicians. Others hold out hope that a better America is on the horizon. The older folks do feel left behind considering the great jobs many of them once had. The global, high-tech, economic transition is truly difficult for some communities. These circumstances remind me of many rural counties in Utah. It makes me sad. The drug situation is to me “the enemy within.” It appears to be as great, if not a greater threat, to our national health and even “homeland security” as are the issues of border control and immigration.               

Kirtland Temple. I got to the temple late in the afternoon. It is such an important historical site for Latter-day Saints. I’ve always known of the great events and the struggles that took place at Kirtland during the founding of our church. It is still a puzzle to me that we don’t own the temple, but I understand that The Community of Christ who own the temple do share our reverence for this special place. The temple grounds are beautiful. It is a conservative building architecturally speaking, but its simplicity is inspiring. When inside the various temple rooms, I could feel the Spirit of the Lord whispering to me that I was standing in a holy place where the Prophet Joseph Smith and others had conversed with the Savior and the prophets of old. The visions described in Doctrine & Covenants, Section 110 are amazing.

I had some dinner in Kirtland and then drove further eastward to find a campground for the night. I found a nice, family-oriented KOA at Erie, Pennsylvania. It was late. I wanted to stop just short of Niagara Falls where I’ll spend a good part of tomorrow. Then, as you might guess, I’ll head to Palmyra, New York. I’m certainly looking forward to this and to the drive across upstate New York.

Vince’s Response:  I have always admired the University of Notre Dame based on what many people have told me about it over the years. It’s great that you took note of its location in Indiana. Our family has never been to the Kirtland Temple or to Palmyra. You are about to do two key items on our “yet-to-do” travel list. I have often meditated on the sacred visitations at the Kirtland Temple. These make it one of the most hallowed spots in modern times in all the world. Your plans to visit Niagara Falls sound great. Our young family stopped there as part of our eastward move from Southfield, Michigan, to Marlboro, Massachusetts. It was a very cold spring day. Our four little tykes were restless. We saw the great falls and the famous mist rising above them, but we didn’t do the tours. BTW: My business travels took me to Canton, Ohio, in the early 1990’s. I could keenly sense the economic transition going on back then. God bless those folks who have gone through sort of a time warp. I’m sure the Ohio state education system is working hard to help folks find new paths forward.    

Sean, the Chronicler. By the way, so I don’t forget…. I think you’re doing a great job of reporting on your fantastic journey. As I am the author of the blog, you have allowed me to bring my writing skills to the process and to make some changes to the record, if needed. I rarely do more than to add a comma or perhaps shorten a sentence here and there. You have obviously taken your studies of the King’s English seriously. Good job. And, whew, you covered a lot of territory today. 

Bookends: (1) Congratulations to the University of Notre Dame for the great institution they are. (2) God bless those who live in the former manufacturing towns of the Midwest, Northeast, and elsewhere across the country. (3) The Kirtland Temple reminds me of the scripture in Amos 3:7: “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” We certainly live in a time when we need the heavens to be open to humanity.