Jane Ellefson, then Associate Pastor at First-Plymouth Congregational Church, was one of our friends in Lincoln, Nebraska. We actually had Jane over for dinner on a 98 degree Nebraska day. (Note: Do not plan much cooking when it's 98 degrees outside and your home is neither air conditioned nor well-insulated.) Jane later went to Africa to do human service. I guess she figured it couldn't be any hotter than what she'd already experienced in our dining room.
Anyway, Jane told us a wonderful story about her Norwegian mother, who lived on the plains of north central Nebraska. As the woman aged, her son in the Seattle area invited her for a visit. No return plane ticket was purchased, as the family thought she was too old to live on her own. After few weeks, responding to her eagerness to return to Nebraska, they broke the news. "Mom, we'd like you to stay with us. We thought the woods, water and mountains of the Puget Sound would remind you of growing up in Norway."
Their mother was resolute. "I need to go home where I can stretch my eyes."
In addition to being a wonderful reference to places like Nebraska, or eastern Washington, uncluttered by great forests or the signs of human habitation, Jane's story reminds us of the importance of vision that exceeds our grasp, and the reality that, in the larger context, our little endeavors don't add up to a hill of beans. Work hard, study hard, take life seriously, but every once in a while go somewhere where you can use different muscles, lift your hopes, and stretch your eyes.