A Hershey Park Transformation

By Ward Shope

When our kids were very young, Debbie and I began to make an annual pilgrimage to Hershey Park.  At first it was all just innocent fun: a free ride in Chocolate World, a trip to the picnic tables for lunch, and then back to Chocolate World to get a second piece of chocolate for dessert.  That’s about all we could handle.

But things progressed from there.  As they grew bigger, we began paying big money to take them to the all-you-can-ride-for-one-price park.  We’d arrive at opening time and stay so late you could run from ride to ride with no waiting line.  The ride-to-dollar ratio didn’t seem so bad with the buffet of entertainment laid out before us.

So when Debbie suggested that since Wes and Steph and our one-year-old grandson were home for a while, we should treat all children, their spouses, and our grandchildren to The Park, we agreed on a date.  Since we pay “senior” prices, and got discounted tickets for all of them (grandchildren were free), it sounded manageable.

I wasn’t so foolish to believe it would be anything like before.  We left later than we hoped.  Still, we arrived at a reasonable time.  But then there were bathroom needs and stroller packing, baggage checks and crowds.  From the parking lot to inside the actual park was an hour plus.  Lines were long and by 1:30, our group had managed just two coaster rides.  Then it was time for lunch.  We walked our party to the picnic tables.  It was after 3:30 as we headed to Chocolate World and back to the park.  All in all, we managed four coaster rides and the swings.  We left the park after dark to wait at Wendy’s for dinner and arrived home before 11.

Though tired at the end, it was a surprisingly good day.  The ride-to-dollar ratio was out of sight, but the “time with our grandchildren and family”-to-dollar ratio was great.  We wouldn’t have done that a whole day without paying.  Debbie, of course, took no rides.  She had other priorities and the rest of us took turns to make the adult-to-child ratio 1:1 during rides, or more like 8:2 most of the day.   There were lots of smiles, baby carrying, milk spilling, a little fussing (adults and children), and an energy-renewing picnic.

It looked nothing like it was when the kids were younger.  And it reminded me once again that the things we find important in our lives change over time if we allow ourselves to grow.  At one point, it was all about the thrill together, making it count, and with almost Sabbath resolution, we reserved the day apart.

This time was different.  The trip was a fond reminder of the tradition that was, yet also a present thanksgiving for our growing progeny and the joy of connecting them all together at one moment in time.  We still enjoyed the rides, but had that been the focus we would have gone home sorely disappointed.

I believe Christ is responsible for the transformation—at least in me.  Many things take on different meaning as we grow in faith and trust in the Lord.  While no ratio can measure or define the change precisely, it all hints at the change coming in the final pilgrimage as we pass into his Kingdom.