Vacation: A Dream on Multiple Levels
Although much of my work now involves book editing and ghostwriting projects, I still write articles periodically for several publications (in the spirit of the 21st century, most are online). And every so often, I work on a story that makes me sit up and exclaim, “How cool is that!”
Such was the case in August when I wrote a story for AG News headlined, “A Real Dream Vacation.” It was about young people in a short-term residential program in Arkansas getting the chance to take a three-day trip to Branson, Missouri. Many are foster children; some are developmentally disabled.
Those of us who are used to an annual vacation may yawn over that, wondering why that is such a big deal. After all, they didn’t jet off to Italy, Cancun, or some other exotic locale. But for 95% of these young people, vacation was a foreign word.
“Now they have some normalcy in their lives,” said the resident director, a former teacher who recalled how the first week of classes was always a time to share about a vacation or other summer activities. This year, her residents could contribute.
“Our kids don’t ever feel normal and this was a time that they did,” she said. “They didn’t know what a vacation was; they had no clue. To them, vacation now has a meaning.”
A Great Vacation Getaway
I guess one reason I related so closely to this story is that I finished it three days before a short vacation. Though we left on Friday morning and were back about 5:30 p.m. on Monday, it was a stress-relieving, 10-hours-of-sleep-a-night sort of break.
Add in the old friends we went to visit while taking in some unexpected sights—I didn’t even know there was a fish hatchery in their part of the world—and it added up to a fantastic long weekend.
Even more so for the kids who have been kicked from home to home, wondering if they will ever find a permanent resting place. Those who “age out” of foster care at 18 with no familial support system are at higher risk for teenage pregnancy, abuse and other societal ills.
So for them to visit Dolly Parton’s Stampede, watch a live stage show at the Sight & Sound Theater, and enjoy a scrumptious buffet alongside other vacationers was the thrill of a lifetime.
Another fascinating element of this story is what made the trip possible: an anonymous $30,000 donation. Though known to the executive director, he didn’t reveal her identity to me. But he did tell me this she belongs to a non-Pentecostal denomination.
“Take them on vacation so they can get to know Jesus,” she told him.
To anyone who knows of the verbal broadsides often lobbed at each other between the charismatic/Pentecostal and non-charismatic camps, this is not just some ho-hum event.
This is a real-life demonstration of someone who recognizes that those from a background other than theirs still identifies with the same Savior. That they are indeed doing the Lord’s work and will one day enter the same heaven.
That shouldn’t be an earth-shattering revelation. Unfortunately, in our fractured world, attacking any denomination or Bible translation different from ours seems a routine pastime for far too many church members.
So when I learn of someone who ignores the non-essential junk that divides Christ’s followers, it is worth cheering about. It’s a dream that may only be fully realized in heaven, but is still worth looking forward to seeing.