The niche word

Current wisdom for many professions is to find a niche market and focus. You can’t just write about travel. You have to write about gay travel or traveling as a handicapped person or travel in the Florida Keys or travel by dugout canoe. If you choose to specialize in travel by dugout canoes, you need to decide whether your canoe will be dug out of maple or cedar. Niche marketing.

Churches are also being encouraged to find their niche. These days there are cowboy churches and Contemporary churches. Denominations have existed for centuries. Blacks and whites went their separate ways during the Civil War.

I’m not a big fan of niches. I am curious about everything. Don’t limit me. I see a bumper sticker that says, “Eat Bertha’s Mussels,” and I wonder what that’s about. Who is Bertha? Where is Bertha? Can I get to Bertha’s by suppertime?

The world seems to have a love/hate relationship with generalists. One of the first words I remember being taught in a classroom is the word “dilettante.” It describes, I was told, someone who is “a jack of all trades and master of none.” Apparently, to be labeled a dilettante is to be insulted. I prefer to think my interests are eclectic. I may read the biography of a baseball player one day, a financial analysis of “Tulip Mania” the next, a science fiction novel the next, a book about Buddhism the next and a Civil War history the next.

“Where the Pavement Ends” has been my attempt at writing a travel blog in the year since my retirement.

I have written about New York City, Shreveport and Machu Picchu, but I have also written about football, colors, grief, friendship, patriotism, race relations and alternative medicines. Travel, it turns out, is too narrow a topic for my interests.

I admire people who have specific, marketable skills, who are expert in a particular area, those who can craft fine furniture, who can wire a house for electricity, who can play the flute, who can teach children in a classroom, who can perform surgery. Some people are brain surgeons, play the flute and make fine furniture. I am not one of them, but I am happy the world has people who cross disciplines. Too narrow a focus makes us less than we might be.

An old joke tells of St. Peter giving new residents a tour of heaven. As they pass certain sections, he shushes the recent arrivals, motioning for them to be quiet. Later someone asked, “Why did we need to be quiet back there?’

St. Peter responded, “Oh, that’s where the Baptists stay and they still think they’re the only ones here.”

Retirement has been good for me because it freed me from many of the restrictions of my life that were employment based. Being restrained by others and limiting myself drives me nuts, but it is somewhat inevitable in the workaday world. Nowadays, every morning, I drink coffee from a cup that is inscribed, “Never affirm self-limitations.” When I begin my morning and the sun is rising, I want my ears sensitive to all that is happening around me and I want my eyes wide open. I want to see, taste, touch, hear and smell it all. Bring it on. No limits.

Marion Aldridge

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About the Author
Marion D. Aldridge is a popular preacher, public speaker, workshop leader and an award-winning writer. Author of numerous books and hundreds of articles on topics ranging from religion to sports to travel, Aldridge’s interests are wildly eclectic. Aldridge has invested a lifetime in discovering what it means to be a citizen and participant in God’s wonderful world. Aldridge is at home whether having High Tea at Harrods or rafting on the Chattooga or worshiping at our planet’s holiest shrines.

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  • J. Earl Williams

    The frustration is that I wish to do so many things that I often fail to give enough attention to the task at hand. The delight is there is no boredom.