When I was growing up I would hear Tom Petty sing about gliding down over Mulholland or The Beatles sing about Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields and I would think how cool it would be to live somewhere with such inspiring and poetic sounding place names.
What I didn’t realize was that by themselves those place names are nothing special. What makes them poetic is the fact that they were included in the songs. The writers of those songs were just looking at the place names around them and letting them seep into their lyrics . Penny Lane was a bus stop in Liverpool, while Strawberry Fields was a children’s home near where Lennon grew up.
Years ago, I was driving in Nashville thinking about those songs. I thought about my story and how I got hit by a truck when I was a kid. The accident happened in an intersection, and one of the street names was Hurt Road. This would be the perfect name for a song! I wrote a song called “Hurt Rd.” and brought it to the rest of the band. I excitedly played it for them.
I got zero reaction. None. Their responses to the song were something along the lines of “Where are we going to lunch today?” or “Did you watch LOST last night? How cool was that?”
While the title didn’t work as a song, it was still rattling around in my head when I was walking around in Reading, PA a couple years ago. I had been working on a book for a while by this point. It had started as a memoir and then shifted into a more practical Christian living kind of thing. I didn’t like it. There were some good stories in there, but it was just a rambling mess. It needed some kind of structure to hold it up. A title that would suggest a journey, a way to navigate through life. As I walked, I kicked around ideas in my head.
Journey. Way. Road. Road is good. But what kind of road?
Then it hit me in a flash. Hurt Road. The name of the road where I got hit by the truck could work as a metaphor for the struggle we all share. Beyond that, it’s a real place where something significant happened to me. In that moment, I got the entire premise for my book.
I love that I can share my story outside Atlanta and people say, “Hurt Road. I get it. We all deal with pain on the journey.” But when I share it around here, people say “Hurt Road. I get it. It’s a great way to save a little time when traffic’s bad on the East West Connector.”
Look around you. Names and places have significance. We just have to give it to them.