Friday, February 7, 2014

Judah Hill Detour

Driving to town yesterday was so exciting! I was only doing routine errands, and nothing out of the ordinary happened, nevertheless I was almost giddy. We live 18 kilometres south of Peace River, the town where we work, shop & worship. The drive is about 16 kilometres over the flat prairie, then two steep and windy kilometres down Judah Hill into the valley. Last May there was a landslide – the hillside gave way and took a chunk of the highway with it. The road was closed. Now our only way to town was north by southeast – across to the village of Nampa and up to Peace River. Our 18 kilometre jaunt became a 90 kilometre round-trip. Fifteen minutes of relative solitude on the secondary highway became at least half an hour with traffic.

The timing was ironic  - for the almost eight years we’d lived out here on our acreage, Paul taught at and the boys went to school at the francophone school in Falher, 55 kilometres south of us, so they all had a daily 110 kilometre commute. (Before I had children I probably would have considered this child abuse, but my kids loved the bus ride.) In May Paul accepted a position at the Catholic school in Peace River, so we decided to switch everyone to that school system. What a joy to have a much shorter drive, we thought… it turned out to be almost as long.

It was a delight yesterday to turn left onto the highway, after nine months of the longer route to the right. My muscle memory kicked in - I know that road like the back of my hand. I have driven it in all weather conditions imaginable – whiteouts, floods, heat waves and wind storms. I remember driving back and forth to town, pregnant and studying Jewish history, and deciding that if we had another boy I’d like to name him Judah. I remember spinning out on the ice and going into the ditch, five-year-old Sasha squealing “Whee!” the whole time. I remember stopping as a herd of elk crossed the highway single file as I was on my way to the grocery store. In just less than eight years I've driven this route over a thousand times – encountering moose, deer, snowy owls, golden eagles, northern lights and bright canola fields. I am so grateful for this drive.

But as frustrating as it was to reroute the long way, I need to keep it in perspective. So it was a 45 kilometre drive… to what?

45 kilometres to school – my kids have the right to go to school, unlike other children in this world who are forced to work or otherwise denied education. We have the privilege to choose both French and Christian instruction.

45 kilometres to work – my husband has a good, stable job that he loves. While many folks are out of work or working in terrible conditions, we have plenty of opportunities for employment, even the option of government social services to aid us.

45 kilometres to shopping – even in a relatively small northern town I have the choice of four grocery stores that carry product from all over the world. While many people in this world are starving, I can eat mangoes, avocados and coconuts far from their country of origin. We have the option of gluten-free, nut-free, low-fat, oven-ready or take-out.

45 kilometres to church – we are free to attend the church of our choice and freely worship. In other parts of the world believers are persecuted - forced to sneak into secrets churches under the cover of night or even martyred for their faith. Our church has running water, heat and even a new roof. We are not afraid to go to church.

As I drive that 45 kilometres to town I need to keep my eyes peeled for moose, but I will likely not encounter any roadside bombs or snipers along the way. The relatively small amount of additional effort it takes for us to get to our places of work, worship, learning and shopping is nothing to the huge and dangerous effort it is for some of the world to access work, school, church, clean water and food.

So as much as I appreciate my short Judah Hill drive, I also thank God for the detour. We live in a land of plenty, a land of opportunity, a land of choice. And for that I am grateful.

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