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Excerpts of Pennsylvania Travel Diary
State 38 - PENNSYLVANIA 29 NOV 99 - 03 DEC 99

 

A visit from family

A wonderful surprise! We had thought Thanksgiving was going to be dull, lonely and lackluster, but our mood brightened when we got word that Ken's sister, her husband and their beautiful 18-month daughter would be visiting us here in PA. Even though they didn't come for Thanksgiving Day, they were here a few days before and I'm thankful to have had family around us during this blessed time, especially their golden-haired baby, Jillian. Blonde hair, blue eyes and a happy personality -- always giggling. I must say, Jillian made the holiday special. I remember in my teens, when I didn't care for children or babies, (or anything else for that matter), people used to always comment that "Children make the holidays," and I used to mutter, "The only thing they 'make' of the holidays is a mess." Smelly diapers, broken ornaments, spilled drinks, crying chaos. But now I'm a lot older and now I see that children do make the holidays. What is it? It's some kind of magic. The young eyes that haven't seen the pain of life yet. The clear, unblemished skin that hasn't suffered the elements of extreme weather.The uncompromising, unfearful curiosity. The excitement of the gift of life is still fresh in these young bodies, still pure and quite contagious. I guess that's why "children make the holidays." And I vow from here on to always have a baby with me during the holidays, even if I have to borrow one. They are the reminders of the wonderful gift of life.

Penn-sive thoughts

At the gift store in the State museum today I bought a history book about William Penn to learn about the state's founder. It's a small book and a brief account of Penn's life, his struggles, and his dreams for establishing a place where freedom of religion could be practiced without fear of persecution or imprisonment. Although Penn acquired quite a large land grant and recruited many settlers, his life was quite sad and fraught with constant legal battles. He was always in court protecting his land in America and, as a member of the higher echelons of English society and a practicing Quaker, he was frequently called into court and hauled off to jail for his beliefs. Many of the leaders in England feared that Penn was a "secret Catholic," a threatening figure during the late 1600s. It was interesting to read the historical account of his life, but to complement this unbiased, historical account, I also bought a philosophical book, called,"Some Fruits of Solitude," that Penn himself wrote in 1693 -- more than 300 years ago. I thought I could learn more about him by reading his own writings. Some of his "fruits" are true today. In his Introduction he writes that this publication is a collection of things he learned by being alone, completely and utterly alone. "It is a school few care to learn in, tho none instructs us better." He writes.

One of the things Penn mentions pertains to the education of children. He claims that we teach our children improperly. We teach them rules: reading writing and arithmetic, but nothing of themselves. Penn encourages his reader to teach children about themselves first. Show them how perfectly they were designed by God, and their relationship to God's other creatures, and how man and these creatures fit into the whole scheme of the world, our relationship with the world and our responsibility to it. According to this book, Penn believed that if children first learned about the perfection of God's creations, they would come to love themselves, and as a result come to love each other. His belief ties in with the teachings of Jesus who, when asked what is the most important commandment, replied, "Love your neighbor as you love yourself, and love your God with all your heart, mind and soul." The Catch-22 to this commandment is "Love your neighbor as you love yourself." If you don't love yourself, how can you love your neighbor? If you treat yourself with hatred, you'll hate your neighbor, too. Penn's words ring true. Love yourself first. Then you'll naturally love your neighbor and your world. If we focus on self-knowledge, teach children about themselves first, when they are young, and untainted by the perversions of the world, then we can begin to introduce them to Man's imperfect laws.

"How many people come into, and go out of the world, ignorant of themselves and the world they have lived in?" Penn asks. He recommends that people should tour themselves as they would tour Windsor Castle, or some famous cathedral, or tabernacle. Take stock of all that is You, all the gifts God has given you, and appreciate what you are. Penn also laments that so many people feel life is a burden when it is really a gift. I'm paraphrasing here, but he says something like, suppose someone gave you a big expensive gift, but you never opened it. Instead, you carry this big, burdensome thing around with you all the time, day after day hating the person for giving it to you. If you would just open the gift and appreciate its beauty, rarity and value, you would be singing praise instead of cursing your burden. Both giver and receiver would be happy.

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