Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Traveling Mercies

Like many people, my wife and I will visiting with family this Thanksgiving. And like many people, this means travel. Since we only get two days off of work (Thursday and Friday), we have to fit all of our traveling into a fairly short window, but my parents have generously contributed to our travel abilities by buying our plane tickets, facilitating more time spent actually being with family as opposed to being on the road driving. This is a good thing.

And that should really be the end of it, but for my sense of economic efficiency. After accounting for time spent getting to the airport and getting through security, I figure we probably save about 4 hours each way by flying instead of driving. As to time spent with my parents, the four hours saved on the trip up is the only time saved that matters, since they have to leave before we do, anyway. Even though I don't have to pay the money (and, indeed, no longer have to pay the costs of driving myself up either), I can't help but think that the extra four hours isn't worth the extra expense.

This naturally makes me appear a bit ungrateful. After all, they want to spend the money. It obviously is worth it to them to be able to get that extra time. And I'm certainly happy to have the extra time, however small it is. Why should it matter that it somehow seems like an economic imbalance? And, of course, even if my parents have to leave a bit earlier than we would, we still get to spend that much more time with other relatives thanks to my parents generosity. Clearly, they have done a good thing.

I often spend time listening to A Prairie Home Companion on the radio. Garrison Keillor often pokes fun at the sometimes-ridiculous extremes people go to avoid accepting kindnesses. It's okay to give to others without expecting anything in return, but it's somehow not okay to accept someone giving to you. Indeed, in this set-up, one wonders how anyone ever does do anything nice for anyone else! You have to be able to take once in a while!

Although Keillor's humor is deeply-rooted in Midwestern culture, which doesn't really apply to me all that well, I have to believe that a similar factor is at work in myself. I have trouble accepting such a kind offer. This is certainly true with my in-laws as well, who have allowed my wife and I the privilege of joining them on an Alaskan cruise last year, and also on recent weekend trips to the coast (such as this one). I am indeed grateful for these gifts, and can certainly say that I've needed the breaks from my usual routine.

So why is it so hard to just accept these gifts and say "thanks"? I'm not entirely sure, but need to be aware of this within myself.

So, "thanks" Mom and Dad. I look forward to seeing you next week.

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