Our family has just returned from a week of travel to Washington, D.C. and Williamsburg, Virgina. We have long wanted our boys to feel a sense of connection with this great country of ours and have purposed to help them understand it to the best of their ability. Terry and I are not politically savvy, but we do want our boys to understand a bit of government and feel responsible for having a voice. We’ve taken them with us to vote since they were very small.
Having moved to Baltimore, Maryland when I was twenty-one, I learned early on the value of seeing things through fresh eyes in different surroundings. I have not had the ability to travel as much as I would like, but I have benefitted greatly from being exposed to things beyond what is familiar to me. We took the boys into Washington, D.C. two years ago for one day on our way to a week in West Virginia. We had a great time and it left a strong impression on both boys. Ben, especially, had highly anticipated this new trip back to the city he so enjoyed.
I had done a great deal of “leg-work” beforehand, to lessen the “leg-work” there. We found extraordinarily good hotel deals (certainly a blessing and all blessings come from God) – eight nights for less than $500 and in 3.5+ star hotels . (We wouldn’t ordinarily even consider such hotels, but when we put a cap on our price-per-night, up popped some superb hotels out-bidding the “budget” hotels for our business. We were happy to oblige.) We stayed at the Springfield Hilton, just outside of D.C., and took the Metro to our points of interest the first two days. On Friday, we went straight to the Smithsonian Museum of American History, having seen the Natural History museum on the last trip. We were delighted by all things Americana, from early transportation, to musical instruments, to sports-heroes’ jerseys. We spent a sober time in the Civil War area, especially studying the exhibit on Abraham Lincoln, which included his top hat. He and I share a birthday, and as such, I have always felt a particular fascination with him. He is a man of great character and worth admiring. Terry was especially struck by the “Star-Spangled Banner” exhibit, which houses the original flag that waved the night the song was written. I don’t think even Terry understands why, but he was deeply moved by it and spent a long time considering its bullet holes, fraying edges and thin stripes.
Ben is a World War II enthusiast and remembers more details about it than I could dream of remembering – all the way down to ammunition and guns. He particularly enjoyed studying that exhibit with his dad and taking in all the sights and sounds of that era. Jake is age-appropriately fascinated with adolescent girls, so he especially enjoyed the athletics displays with gymnasts and swimmers, but don’t tell him I told you. Then we had an unexpected surprise. After buying our lunch at the cafeteria in the museum, Jake was standing by the soda machine drinking and refilling, drinking and refilling, while Terry and Ben looked for a table. A line of annoyed patrons had begun converging around him and I stepped to his side to move him along. The cafeteria attendant, however, had already assessed the situation and came swiftly to Jake’s elbow. “Now honey, you just drink as much as you like and don’t you worry about nobody else.” I urged him to pick up his tray and come on, but she jumped right in. “Don’t you worry about Mr. Jake. He’s just fine. Take your time; take your time.” Jake picked up his tray and she continued, “Do you need a place to sit?”
I explained that Terry was looking for one and she said authoritatively, “Come on!” She led the way to a door on the side of the utterly packed cafeteria and ushered us inside. We collected Terry and Ben on the way and as she took us in, she said, “This will be a quiet place for you guys to eat. Jake needs a quiet place to eat.” And so she settled us in, taking our trays, giving us insider information and cautioning us to “Take as long as you want. Nobody will bother you back here. If they do, you just come get me! I’ll see to them.” The sweet and blessed Delores then swept out of that quiet room, a curious vacuum left in her wake, as she left us there in the peaceful place to eat and regroup. The entire encounter was so unusual, and so, I don’t know… shocking. I knew God’s fingerprint was clearly on it and I just breathed in His goodness. Terry and Ben were struggling to figure out who this benevolent stranger was and what in the world had just happened? We had just been in the midst of hundreds (if not more) milling around the museum and then the lunchroom, packed wall-to-wall with people, and suddenly we were ushered into this inner sanctum of calm, just in the midst of that bustling world. And there we sat, next to the window with sunlight streaming in and with blessed quietness. Peace settled over us and replaced the frantic hubbub that had previously pushed us about.
As we were finishing up, Ms. Delores again graced us with her presence. In she breezed, asking if there was anything we needed or that she could do and then urging us to stay and rest a while. When Terry mentioned that we had a two o’clock appointment to tour the Capitol, she shushed him sternly. “Ain’t nothing more important than what you’re doing right here, right now – eating with your sweet family. These days fly by, son, and this is the most important thing you’ll do all day: enjoy your family.” Terry squirmed just a little, urging Jake to finish up and she reprimanded Terry sharply. “Don’t you rush him! Boy, you’ve got to slow down a bit! Don’t you be dragging your family all over the place – slow down!” Terry hung his head in resignation and she said to me, “You come and get me if he starts to act out again.” She turned to Terry and said, “I’ve got my eyes on you, young man…” making that “v” with her two fingers and waving from her eyes to his. We all laughed. She continued to tease Terry mercilessly until we were all in stitches. Then she placed her hands on Jake’s shoulders and said to him, “And you, young man, well, I’m expecting great things outta you.” She gave Terry the “I’ve got my eyes on you” sign and with a glorious smile and wave, she swept out of the room.
“Mom,” said Ben knowingly, “Do you think she was an angel?” I smiled, my heart already filled with joy and laughter from the beauty of her presence, her great gift to us. “I don’t know, Ben, maybe. But if not, then she and God are just like this,” and I twisted my two fingers around each other. “She’s certainly working for Him, one way or the other. A person doesn’t bring that kind of blessing with their presence and not be touched by the Divine.” I never saw her again as we left the cafeteria. I’m planning to send a note to the museum, telling them how much we appreciated Ms. Delores’ kindness to us. I’m secretly hoping they write me back to tell me they don’t have an employee named Delores. I’ve got my fingers crossed.