And it's a long journey indeed.
We could have chosen to squeeze our 2,800 mile trek into a quick five hour plane ride on one of the many jumbo jets zipping in the air. We would have been crowded into the cramped seats and pretended to sleep through the bad movie. We'd quickly forget the guy who typed away at his spreadsheet to our left or the snoring lady in the next row since we'd probably never see either again. In as much time as it takes to roast a turkey, we'd arrive in Washington, DC for the PFLAG National Conference with time to spare for dinner.
Not us. Instead of a a flight at 550mph and 30,000 feet up, our stainless steel train car will slowly traverse eleven states and four time zones over the next three and a half days. It's very easy to romanticize a long train trip; all the old black and white movies took place on board trains, your fork and knife in the dining car are metal instead of plastic, and you get to wear kitschy train hats and no one bats an eye.
Additionally, the jarringly slower pace of life on a train allows for conversation between strangers. Our little enclosed train creates its own temporary world with about one hundred roommates crammed together along the five cars. For the next three days, everyone we'll speak to is being pulled by the same diesel engine ahead of us and we'll all dine with each other in the dining car.
During our normal lives off the rails, we all have the opportunity to interact with new people and strike up conversations but we often convince ourselves that we "don't have enough time" to open up and chat, even though we probably do. Stuck together in this long, multi day journey, our fellow train passengers are suddenly potential friends, even if for only a handful of days. The train is now our community and we all have the time to enjoy the ride and each others' company. Save for the breath-taking views, there are virtually no distractions. We all rely on the original entertainment: conversation.
This special use of time is why the PFLAG Express is slowly crawling across America; if there's anything that PFLAGers know well, it's how to talk to new people.
PFLAG encourages others to open up and share with strangers all the time and most PFLAGers have experienced this in a support meeting. We meet to hear peoples' stories, their triumphs and occasionally their sorrows. We build community with every interaction.
During the next three days, we will mix and mingle with our fellow train passengers as we make our way to Washington, DC for the National Convention. With the help of the large PFLAG buttons that we're wearing, we've already had some great, positive conversations. We're asking our new friends: "tell us about a single voice who changed your world" and we're hearing some great responses. We'll write more on this in a future post.
Happy trails from somewhere near Arches National Park, Utah,