Less Traveled: When The ‘Wrong’ Road Leads Us to the Right Place

Guest Submission by Moira Crooks

Ever have one of those moments when something comes to you in a dream? In the wee hours of the morning after I had fed our six-month-old son, put him back to bed, and drifted off again to sleep myself, I woke up energized with the thought of Robert Frost running through my head. Well, not Robert Frost in a jogging suit readying for a marathon type of running, but Robert Frost’s piece “The Road Not Taken” pulsing through my thoughts and more specifically a quote from it:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

 I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

I pondered for a moment and then thought almost immediately of Gov. Palin’s decision not to run for the GOP nomination for the 2012 Presidential Election. There is some debate in literary circles as to whether Frost was glad he took the road less traveled or regretted not taking the more traveled, more acceptable path. A lot of people think Gov. Palin has chosen the wrong path by not throwing her name in the hat this time around. However, I am a firm believer that wrong roads can often lead us to the right place.

From the dawn of creation, man’s story has been marked by people who took wrong turns. At the fork in the road, they went the wrong way but ended up right where they were supposed to be. The Bible is full of stories of people who seemed to be at the wrong place at the right time. A gangly teenager named David was told by his father to carry some food to his big brothers who were fighting a war, and on that road, young David discovered his destiny to be the King of Israel. Think of the Israelites of the Old Testament who made the most famous wrong turn in all of history and zigged and zagged for forty years in the wilderness before arriving in the land of milk and honey. Indeed, almost every Bible character could say, “You know, a funny thing happened to me on the way to (fill in the blank).” It almost seems everyone who gets to the right place spends some time on the wrong road.

Henri Dunant was a wealthy Swiss banker in the 19th century. He was sent by the Swiss government to work on a business deal with Napoleon in Paris. He arrived in Paris only to find Napoleon was off fighting a war against the Austrians in Solferino, Italy. So Henri Dunant got back in his carriage and giddy-upped his horses down to the battlefront, arriving just in time to hear the bugle’s blast and see the thundering charge of the battle. Henri Dunant had never seen the ghastly carnage of war before. In utter horror he watched the cannon balls tearing through flesh, leaving acres of maimed and dying men. So devastated was he that he stayed for weeks, assisting the doctors as they cared for the wounded in churches and nearby farmhouses. Even when he got back to Switzerland, Henri Dunant could not keep his mind on his banking business. His thoughts kept running back to what he’d witnessed in Solferino. He became so distracted he lost his fortune; his business failed. But even with his career in shambles, he never lost his sense of personal duty to make a difference. He wrote, “I was aware of an intuition, vague and yet profound, that [this was] God’s Will; it seemed to me that I had [something] to accomplish … as a sacred duty and that it was destined to have fruits of infinite consequence for mankind.” You can say that again! Out of his depression and failure Henri founded the International Red Cross, which has since saved millions and millions of lives in war and disaster, for which he was awarded the first-ever Nobel Peace Prize – all because he followed that wrong road to Italy.

The founder of the International Red Cross had no idea where that road to Italy would lead. He had no idea it would change his life so drastically or the lives of countless others impacted by his choice to take that road. We have yet to know what extent Gov. Palin’s decision to go down the unconventional, untrodden path will mean for her, for us, and ultimately for America. We can learn from history an important lesson though, the less traveled road often produces life-changing results.

Irena Sendler (aka Irena Sendlerowa) was a member of Zegota, the clandestine Polish Rescue Organization, who, at great risk, rescued 2,500 Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto and placed them with Christian families. She buried jars containing their real and assumed names in the garden, so that they could be one day learn the names of their biological families after the war. Sendler has been called the female Oskar Schindler, but she saved twice as many lives as the German industrialist, who sheltered 1,200 of his Jewish workers. Unlike Schindler, whose story received international attention in the 1993 movie “Schindler’s List,” Sendler and her heroic actions were almost lost to history until four Kansas schoolgirls wrote a play about her. The lesson Sendler taught them was that “one person can make a difference,” Megan Felt, one of the authors of the play, said. Sendler was honored by the Polish Senate and nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, which brought dozens of reporters to her door. “Every child saved with my help is the justification of my existence on this Earth,” she said, “and not a title to glory.” Irena chose a path, not tread on by everyone and she changed lives and made a difference in this world.

Coach Ed Thomas also impacted this world by choosing a path less traveled. He was the local high school football coach in Parkersburg, Iowa, when a tornado struck the south side of town killing seven people and destroying 280 homes. Ed Thomas, fueled by his faith and sense of hope, helped motivate the community to put their lives back together. Only 13 months later, another tragedy struck, this time involving a former student and his tragic decision. Coach Thomas was shot and killed by a former player. Though his life was cut short, the path he chose continues to impact lives in those small Iowa communities. In the wake of devastation, Parkersburg maintained the magnanimous attitude that Thomas once exemplified. The most striking example of that mentality came in April of this year, after a tornado decimated Mapleton, Iowa, a town 180 miles west of Parkersburg. A group of more than 85 students — there are only about 250 in the entire school — immediately volunteered to help clean up the destruction. No local newspaper or television station organized the effort. The kids arranged it themselves, unprompted.

Ed Thomas and Irena Sendler are two people who didn’t need titles to get them onto that road less traveled. They made a difference and impacted the way numerous people live their lives today. Gov. Palin is proving too that she is traveling down the road to making a difference without being the GOP nominee for President. I have no doubt history will show her to be one of those who return America to its Constitutional roots. We might all be disappointed with her decision not to run, but ultimately I think we will get to the point to see that what might seem like the wrong road is going to put Gov. Palin in the right place to change history and make a huge difference for all Americans.

The question for us as people who espouse all that Gov. Palin stands for is this: Will we continue on the path with her? Will we follow her example and take the road less traveled? Will we take that road that everyone else sees as wrong? Will we stand up and continue to fight to restore America? The wrong road will lead us to the right place, if we just have the courage to step onto the path and blaze a new trail.

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