She was waiting for me on Antioch Pike southeast of Nashville. “How can you do this?” she asked.
“I don’t know.” I replied.
“Do you have a doctor I can call?”
“Walt Franz. At the Mayo Clinic.”
Later that day on the phone Dr. Franz told me that a reporter for the Nashville Banner had called to ask her question. “I told her,” Walt said, ‘Ed has a mission, and because he does, he can override his physical problems’.”
Walt was more right than he knew. I had three missions. The first was to find that spark of goodness and genius I think burns inside every person on the planet. I had always said it was there. Now I had to find out.
My second mission was to tell people across the country about the Human Family Reunion we had been having at William Jewell for eleven years. And my third mission was to prove that other doctor wrong. The one who said, “It’s a damnable disease. And you can’t be active.”
Two weeks on the road it has taken me to pedal from Orlando to Nashville, two weeks into a journey bound northeast to Seattle, then due south to L.A., two weeks into my triple mission when that reporter for the Nashville Banner appears in a grocery store parking lot on the outskirts of Nashville to ask me her question.
When I was a child and would listen on Saturday mornings to Let’s Pretend, my imagination took flight as the magic of radio made pictures in my mind. King Arthur and Excalliber and the Round Table, Cinderella, Goldilocks, Sleeping Beauty, the Seven Dwarfs, Rumplestilskin, Prince Charming, Hanzel and Gretel. On Sunday mornings in church my teachers would tell me stories of little David the shepherd boy who took his slingshot and slew Goliath, of Moses who led his people out of slavery, of Samson who pulled down the pillars and killed the bad people.
I would have believed anything I was told when I was six and seven years old. Great good fortune came to me as a child as I would hear fairy tales and Bible stories. My mind and heart were shaped and filled with heroic and noble persons. Through nothing I did to deserve it, I was in my first years of life caught in an upward spiral of soul-shaping, mind-expanding ideas and ideals.
Scriptures of all the faiths express common themes that would lead those who take them to heart to embrace one another. One of the teachings I encountered as a child and have since found in different words in other faiths is this: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
I had been trained and now I was old. So how was I at age fifty to fulfill my three-pronged mission? With a child’s toy! In a place for children. Get on a bicycle. At Disney World. Alone and without money, pedal west and north. To Atlanta. Chattanooga, Nashville, St. Louis, Kansas City, Lincoln, Scottsbluff, Casper, Missoula, Spokane, Seattle. Then turn south to Portland, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Then meet Mickey at Disneyland.
At whatever town I would come to between three and five in the afternoon, stop at the first church I see and ask for a meal and a bed for the night. Go to the newspapers and the TV. stations. Tell them the story of what had happened thus far on my journey. Tell them of the spark of goodness and genius. Tell them about the Human Family Reunion. Ask them to tell their readers and viewers.
The five year old I was in my mind saw no problem with this plan. The 50 year old visible to other people had doubts. “Are you crazy?” “You’ll get killed.” “Nobody’s gonna give you anything.” “People will think you’re nuts. This was the 50 year old talking to the five year old. The five year old paid no attention.
So the five year old gets on his bike at Disney World. May 16th. Ten o’clock in the morning. The Congregation of Liberal Judaism and St. Mark’s Lutheran Church and a Disney camera crew have come to see me off. And now on June first I have come to Nashville to answer her question. Or to put it properly, to have her question answered for me by my doctor.