The Plan

When I was 16 my mother put a sign on the door to my room.

Teenagers! Tired of being harassed by your parents? ACT NOW!! Move out, get a job, pay your own way, while you still know everything!!

I didn’t get a job, but the next year I did move out.

I went to Brazil.

I spent a year in Campinas as Rotary exchange student. I had taken French and German in High School. I was pretty good at them.

The plan was to learn Portuguese, go to College, then be a translator at the UN. It was a good plan. I learned Portuguese. I was good at it. People from Sao Paulo thought I was from Piracicaba. (That’s a joke. If you’re from Sao Paulo, you’ll get it.)

I went to College.

That’s where it got off track. Somehow I managed to get into a college that didn’t offer Portuguese, or any classes that had anything to do with Portugal or Brazil. There may have been a course on Latin America in the History department. I don’t remember.

I thrashed around until I settled on majoring in Physics. I liked physics. I wasn’t a whiz, but I was ok. I changed the plan. I could be a civil engineer. Except there wasn’t an engineering department at my college. I figured I’d cross that bridge when I got to it in grad school.

Then I got religion.

Someone invited me to go to an InterVarsity Fellowship meeting. At the meeting, someone else suggested I read the Bible. I didn’t have a Bible, so I went to the library and read one of the Bibles on the 3rd floor. I got hooked.

By the time I got to my Senior year, the religion had taken over. Instead of applying to grad school for engineering, I applied to seminary. I was going to be a Pastor. I was going to save the world. I loved computers, coding, designing stuff for labs and playing with fractals. Jesus wanted me to save the world.

Jesus: "I Want You"

Of course, Jesus didn’t really want me to save the world. He’d already done that. But that was the impression I got from InterVarsity. It took me 10 years to sort out how much of my religion was InterVarsity and how much was Jesus.

At seminary, they painted a picture of the “princes of the pulpit.” Harry Emerson Fosdick, Henry Ward Beecher, Jonathan Edwards. Never mind that it was verging on the 21st century and the world wasn’t like that any more. “You can be one of the greats,” they said. So that became the plan — be a “pulpit prince.”

I graduated.

My Area Minister sent me to a little backwater in Maine, West Bowdoin. There was a little church there that the denomination had marked as a “restart.” A restart meant that it was in rough shape, but might still be viable. Nobody had much hope for it. Nobody else wanted to go there. “Send the rookie.”

It actually did alright. Somehow I got credit for “turning it around.” So they sent me to another one to see if I could turn that one around, too.

Then another. And another. And another.

It’s just what happened.

Life is what happens while you’re making other plans, they say. It wasn’t a bad thing. I’m not complaining. Along the way I met some really cool people and saw a lot of outrageous stuff.

I never did use my college education for anything. I never became a “pulpit prince.”

When I got the chance to retire early, I did. I went back to computers and coding and designing stuff and fractals. Brooke takes a group of teenagers to the UN for a week every February, and I tag along. Maybe some day I’ll get to go back to Brazil for a while. I hope so.

We’ll see.