The following is an excerpt of the book How To Use a Runaway Truck Ramp, by my delightful friends, Shawn and Maile Smucker. The family of 6 packed up their world and embarked on a cross country trip on a big old tour bus. My family was fortunate to spend a few fun hours with them as they passed though Tulsa. I have too much lovely to say about this couple, their faith and their facility with language, so I’ll let Maile speak for them below.
A lot of people have asked me why I wanted to pack all our stuff into a storage unit in Gap, Pennsylvania, corral our four small children onto an old tour bus named Willie, and travel the country for four months with no home or job (for my husband) to come home to.
And here’s my stock answer: “Because I’ve always wanted to travel the country. I just thought it would be interesting and good for the kids’ education.”
But, really, that’s like Miss Nevada saying, “I would wish for world peace” with a cellophane smile held up by double D’s in a modest but flattering swimsuit. Sure, she does want peace and I do think all this gallivanting is interesting, but it’s such a one-dimensional answer.
The truth is: I wanted to take this trip because I flat out NEEDED it. (And not like you need a vacation to deepen your tan lines and take a break from doing dishes for a while.)
Last fall, upon the thoughtful recommendation of a dear friend, I began seeing a counselor. During the preceding year I had slowly precipitated into a shadowy cavern, stumbled deep into its damp, musty depths and found a cruel home for my mind there. I went about my physical life in the daylight, feeding my children, teaching their lessons, filling up the grocery cart and smiling politely at the check out clerk.
But as I sat in the parking lot, shifting my car into drive, I felt hopeless. “I can’t do this for the next sixty years,” I whispered to myself while my childrens’ laughter drifted from the back seats.
So I waited, checking off my “to do” list each day, cozying the kids on the couch with a bowl of popcorn and a DVD, then closing my bedroom door and bending over my bed, stifling my sobs with an old down pillow. And I waited.
Then one fall day, my friend posed the right question. “How are you doing?” she asked, not in a flippant, conversation-filling kind of way. No, she asked with her eyes looking directly into mine and her hand holding my elbow. And her question unraveled me.
A month later, after ample dragging of feet and persistent self-declarations that “I can figure this out on my own,” I acknowledged my limits and heeded my friend’s advice.
For my first appointment, I took the back entrance into the office so no one I knew would see me. I hugged the walls like the lead gun in a covert operation. Then I entered the office with a costumed air of cheerfulness; I wanted to give the impression that I was “here for the good of someone else, just getting some solid professional wisdom to pass along to a struggling friend.”
I waited nervously in my upholstered chair, nonchalantly flipping through magazines I didn’t care about, sneaking eager glances toward the hallway lined with counselors’ offices. And then she appeared beside me as I hunched over a recipe for apple doughnuts. I shook her hand, smiled, and strangely felt like a 12 year old meeting her homeroom teacher for the first time; I followed her sheepishly down the hall.
But what transpired in the office down that hallway changed my life.
I began finding hope.
I began seeing goodness.
I began hearing truth.
I began extending forgiveness.
I began feeling love.
But it was just a beginning, the first wobbly steps up the long slippery staircase from my cavern. I felt confident of what I could leave behind in the shadowy place, the past I could set like a statue upon the rocky altars below. But now I needed a journey, a physical odyssey, in order to shed layers, build strength in my legs, and move upwards. I needed this trip to lose myself one night…and find myself the next morning. I needed this trip to sacrifice…and slowly, painfully be born again.
I needed this trip to wrestle, bloodied and grunting in the darkness…to at last receive the blessing of light.
Shawn Smucker is the author of How to Use a Runaway Truck Ramp and Building a Life Out of Words. He lives in Lancaster County, PA with his wife Maile and their four children. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook, and he blogs (almost) daily at shawnsmucker.com Maile blogs at mailesmucker.blogspot.com
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