Today is the celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the coming together of the transcontinental railroad at Promontory Point in Utah. I’ve been reading about what Brigham Young called the “pivotal and sweeping” changes this mode of transportation brought to our corner of the world. I also listened to the reenactment today on the radio. (The next segment from the radio talk show guy was about driverless cars expected to be the rage in the next decade.)
Not so many years before 1869, when the Golden Spike was driven, my ancestors crossed the plains in wagons. In the 1850s it took about three months to cross the plains at a cost of about $1,000. For many the cost was higher because of lives lost. My my Great-great grandpa Jacob Bushman watched as two of his sisters were laid to rest along the trail in unmarked graves. Elizabeth and Hetty died on the trail, a week apart, in October of 1846. Elizabeth was 8 and Hetty was almost a year old. Many died of cholera, dysentery, exposure or other illnesses.
My ancestors left homes, land and possessions, bringing only what they could carry as they moved across the continent at the slow speed of oxen. They packed provisions like dried foods and hardtack. They cooked over fires and slept under the stars. There probably weren’t many opportunities to talk with other families who had been to where they were going. They went forward with faith.
There have been many times in my life when I’ve looked back and thought, “oh, if only I had waited a bit, the path would have been much simpler.” Or, “if only I had waited, I would not have needed to spend money on that” –like cassettes that changed to CDs or like DVDs that are now digital. We could spend our whole lives waiting for things to get just a bit easier, or cheaper, or more convenient–like a transcontinental train that could take you from New York to San Francisco in a week for $150, first class (which included sleeping cars), or $70 for emigrant class.
Orson F. Whitney said, “No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God . . . and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we came here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven.”
I have no doubt that walking across the the plains taught my ancestors things the train-riders never learned. I’m grateful they did it. I bet they are too. Maybe someday I’ll look back on my footsteps and my path and feel that gratitude for growing up when and where I did. The lessons I’m learning are just right for who I am right now. I wouldn’t want to miss something because I’m waiting for life to get just a little bit better. Let me live every day in the best way I know how, enjoying what I have to the fullest. And then, bring on the future!