This week, my hubs heads west on the Amtrak to attend Parliament of the World’s Religions in Salt Lake City. Ten thousand attendees from eighty countries will come together to work toward peaceful tolerance and understanding of more than fifty religious and spiritual traditions. Wow, right? I think living in harmony is an achievable goal; if each of us would err on the side of kindness and treat others the way we’d like to be treated, we’d be halfway there.
Envisioning his upcoming trip to Utah brings back memories of a past Amtrak vacation. Riding the rails and seeing the countryside from a private berth affords certain luxuries: room service, free movies, the bar-car, an attendant to turn down your bed at night and make it up again in the morning. Some things, however, are not as easy to get used to. I’m sure you’ve heard the WOO-WOOOOOOO of the train whistle as it approaches a railroad crossing. Well, when you’re on the train it happens at every crossing, and the novelty quickly wears off. Also, the cars list back and forth as they roll along the tracks, a rocking motion you barely notice until you head off to the bathroom and find yourself lurching down the aisle, grabbing onto random seats, and apologizing to the folks sitting in them. Returning from the coffee bar with a hot drink in each hand is a catastrophe waiting to happen. And showering in a slippery little stall while the train is moving is a feat to be undertaken at your own peril. All in all, a thrill a minute.
More exciting than the ride itself were the three stopovers allowed on our ticket. We spent a few days in Seattle, Vancouver BC, and San Francisco boarding at youth hostels to save money and meet young people from all over the world. We enjoy sight-seeing, but at heart, we are foodies and do-gooders. In each city, we shopped for ingredients for fifty, carted them back to the hostel on foot or bus, and prepared dinner in the communal kitchen for anyone who wanted to join us. And that’s pretty much everyone when you’re offering a free, home-cooked meal. The San Fran hostel possessed a vintage oven and an assortment of measuring cups and spoons, so I baked chocolate chip cookies for dessert. The oven temp was off and they never got all the way done, but the entire batch was devoured without complaint. The Vancouver spread was by far the most impressive: green curry, jasmine rice, fried spring rolls, and even Thai iced tea. In the aftermath, as we worked to clean up the kitchen, a group of grateful diners swept in to help with chores, then shuttled us off to the on-site bar for a celebratory drink.
A room full of people of different races, creeds, and colors was brought together that night by a shared meal. We made it happen and it was a beautiful thing. Sing it, sister! Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me… and a couple bags of groceries.