I read this morning a letter John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail in 1778 after arriving in France. I thought it worth sharing a couple of exerpts:
My dearest friend,
I am so sensible of the Difficulty of conveying Letters safe, to you, [th]at I am afraid to write, any Thing more than to tell you that after the Fatigues and Dangers of my Voyage, and Journey, I am here in Health…
...All the Luxury I desire in this World is the Company of my dearest Friend, and my Children, and such Friends as they delight in.
How understaded he was! Adams' journey to France in 1778 was, in fact, harrowing. It was long (average length of a trip in the 1700s was 6-8 weeks) and it was dangerous. Not only from disease and weather, but in 1778, from war as well. This is the voyage where their ship Boston, captured the British ship, Martha, during a battle at sea.
"Fatigues and Dangers" indeed.
The second excerpt is marvelous in a number of ways. First that he was fortunate to consider his wife "My Dearest Friend," a phrase he uses throughout his correspondence. Theirs was a remarkable relationship, one well chronicled in David McCollough's book. She was a tremendous source of support, strength and inspiration to him.
I also love the phrase "all the luxury I desire in the world is the company...". I can visualize him amidst the high society of the French aristocracy with all of its trappings. He is doing critical work - helping build a new nation. And in the midst of this historic work and amongst these important people, he finds himself longing for the luxury of time spent with his family and their friends.
The last phrase perfectly captures one of our favorite parts of parenting "and such friends as they delight in". It captures so well the gift of time spent in the company of friends and loved ones. Any given Saturday at our house, you will find the warm smells of pancakes, freshly brewed coffee and a half dozen or dozen teenagers sitting around our table eating pancakes, telling stories and jokes, laughing, and enjoying one another's company. These are the friends our children delight in, and their delight becomes our delight. It is magical, and Adams captures it so well. These are priceless moments well worth cherishing.
Having spent my fair share of time away from my family for work, these few short lines really struck a chord with me. Not just for the marvel of how safe and easy it is to cross the globe these days. But also as a reminder that no matter how urgent or important the task at hand may seem, there may always be a sense of longing for the luxury of the company of loved ones and those they delight in. I imagine this helps keep us grounded, provides us strength, and enables us to do the work we feel called to do.
I suspect this is as true for us today as it was for Adams in 1778.