I drove past him on my way to Warwick… I thought about stopping and finding out more, but I knew I had an appointment to get to. In my rear-view mirror I looked at the man walking along the dirt road beside a heavily laden donkey and thought, Now, there’s something you don’t see every day. I briefly wondered what his story was, and as I drove I realised that I would regret passing up the opportunity to find out. So I got to the turn-off where I was headed, and looked back, calculating how far I’d gone past the man. I checked the time and turned the car around.
As I came back to the place I’d seen the pair, I slowed down and pulled up on the edge of the road, reaching for my camera behind the seat. I walked towards the man, and told him I’d like a photo. He obliged and stood with his donkey - who he told me, was named Esther.
This gentleman had just spent the night camping beside the creek a kilometre or two back, and now was on his way to Killarney… just ambling along with his possessions on the back of the animal. Esther stood patiently while I chatted and stroked her furry grey muzzle. The two were heading north for winter and the man hoped to be towards central Queensland in about 6 weeks. When I asked where he’d come from, he mentioned a place I had never heard of – somewhere in New South Wales.
“How far is that?” I asked, and he replied, “Oh, we don’t measure the miles… we just know how many days or weeks we take.”
I liked that attitude. It didn’t matter how far it was on the map, just what that meant to him in real time. His journey was not a group of figures but a passage of time in his life.
We chatted a bit more about his donkey and his trip, and then he reminded me he had a long day’s walk ahead of him. I nodded and walked back to the car, while Esther was gently goaded on with a stick. I put my seat-belt on, turned the car back in its original direction and continued on my trip. The man raised his stick in farewell as I went past.
Watching the countryside as I whizzed through it at a rate of 80 or so kilometres an hour, I pondered about this man’s journey at a much slower pace, enjoying the sounds of the birds, the warmth of the sun and the fresh autumn breeze. What a wonderful life… sure, the conveniences most of us take for granted would be far and few between, but a whole new appreciation of God’s creation, and simple health and freedom could be had.
I thought about my own life and how sometimes I worry about the distance I’ve come – how much I have achieved (or not), how much I manage to fit into my week, keeping up with emails and tv shows, housework, projects and school timetables. I compare myself to others and wonder if I will ever be as ‘accomplished’ as them, or as organised, and seemingly competent.
But I was reminded that I shouldn’t ‘measure the miles’ – rather, enjoy the journey, take time to breathe in the aroma of life and rest in God’s presence.
“…isn’t life worth more than food? And isn’t the body worth more than clothes? Look at the birds: they do not plant seeds, gather a harvest and put it in barns; yet your Father in heaven takes care of them! Aren’t you worth more than birds? Can any of you live a bit longer by worrying about it?” Matthew 6:25- 27, Good News Bible