Saturday, August 30, 2014

Day 3 With Dad--Good People Wherever You Go

The more I travel, the more I see that people all over the world are generally good and happy and friendly, no matter how different we may be.

Dad was eating breakfast in the hotel cafe on our last morning in Baltimore while I was taking stuff down to the car. I ran into a maintenance man in the parking garage who was hoping the car parked in the spot closest to the door (me) would move their car early so that his work moving mattress frames would be a little easier. I told him that I still needed to collect my dad from upstairs so it would be ten more minutes because "Dad is a little slow."

What this stranger told me next will stay with me.

"Let me share a little gospel with you today. My wisdom to you today is: let him be slow. My daddy died 2 1/2 months ago, just shy of his ninetieth birthday. We had the privilege of having him live with us for the last part of his life, and even though it was hard, there is nothing I wouldn't give to still have him here with me today. Let him be slow. And have a blessed day."

Why are gas stations on the East Coast so hard to find? We spent an hour of our precious Gettysburg time scouring the greater Baltimore area (even using Google maps), trying to find a gas station. Seriously. It could be that I'm accustomed to AZ, where there are two C-stores at any random intersection of the city, but still.

The time it took to fill up the car depleted our tourist time markedly, and when we got back to the battlefield, we had to prioritize our time--movie, cyclorama, bookstore, then a little driving around the area to see where Lincoln gave the Gettysburg address, grab a quick lunch to eat on our drive south to the third and final place on Dad's must-see list.

We did a session in the Washington D.C. temple, and I loved being there with my dad.
As I mentioned before, Dad is a friendly guy, and it's a family joke that no matter where we go, Dad will run into someone he knows. I didn't think it was possible in DC.

I was wrong.

I was waiting for him to come out of the temple, and as the wait time stretched from ten minutes, past thirty, and up to forty minutes, I began to wonder if he had done it again.

While in the dressing room, he had struck up a conversation with someone, and in that conversation, these two men realized that they had mutual friends in common.  Which means, of course, that now they're friends.
They both insisted on getting a picture together outside.  That may sound weird to most people, but that's how my dad has always been--friend to all and stranger to none.
Although we'd had to veto our plans to tour some of the monuments that day, we had a little extra time, so we plotted out a route to the city and drove through some beautiful neighborhoods as the sun was setting.Embassies, churches, homes--it was gorgeous. Even drove around the Mall and saw the White House--from the car.

We decided we'd better get to bed early that night, since we needed to leave for the airport around 6:30 am--no more time for adventures or sightseeing. McDonald's milkshakes would be the best treat to enjoy on our drive back. After finding one close (and a parking place right in front!), we ducked inside for a take-out meal. 

Living in rural Idaho, Dad has little exposure to the homeless and their circumstances. While we waited for our food, an older homeless man wandered from customer to customer, asking for money, reeking of alcohol, and progressively getting more boisterous and disruptive. An employee told him he needed to leave, but the man held his ground. A young boy dressed in head-to-toe gold and purple (and obviously a Kobe Bryant/Lakers fan), approached this homeless man and handed him a few dollars. 

"Here. This should be enough."

I was impressed with this young boy, as was the man.

"Where's your mama? I need to thank her."

They walked around me and my dad to the boy's mom, and the man began to thank her for her generosity. Mom's response surprised me. "That's not my money. That's my boy's money, and he wanted you to have it. Now take it and calm down. Everything's all right around here."

I instantly felt such a love for this boy and for how his mother was raising him with a compassionate eye and generous heart. After the homeless man left, I caught Mom's eye and told her I was impressed and that she was raising a good man. She smiled, a little shy and a little proud at the same moment, and began telling me how proud she was of her nine-year-old son, how he had secured a scholarship to a good school just that day, and how they had decided to come celebrate together.

I left McDonald's that evening--a McD's just like hundreds of McD's across the country--with a smile on my face and a desire in my heart to see others with more compassion as this family had shown me.

As we headed back north for our final night in Baltimore, Dad and I kept reflecting on what a perfect trip it had been--beautiful weather, horseback rides, fun food, people watching, train rides. Neither of us would have traded a second of the four days we had spent together, even the mad dash through the airport in Salt Lake.

We walked into our hotel room just after 9 pm, and things were a little off.  A soda bottle and plastic lid were on the floor of our room, but we brushed their presence off to the possibility that they'd been knocked off the cleaning cart. Then we noticed Dad's suitcase was tipped over. Still no real red flag. I went to my suitcase, and it was tipped over on the floor like it had been carelessly knocked over during the cleaning, but still we weren't alarmed. Dad called Mom while I used the bathroom to get ready for bed, and when I came out, I noticed that Dad's scriptures weren't on the shelf where he'd put them.

"Dad, did you pack your scriptures already?" When he answered no, we began looking around the room more closely. His scriptures were missing, along with his old point-and-shoot camera, his new shorts, and his beloved belt with a custom-made silver buckle.

This was not the end to our perfect vacation that we'd envisioned.

Visits to the front desk. Calls to the night manager, the accounts manager, and the general manager. Security guard reports. Even a visit from the Baltimore PD to our room to inspect "the scene."
No forced entry. No destroyed room. Not professionals, that's for sure. It was strange, and to this day, we don't really know what happened. My theory is that housekeeping didn't shut the door completely and some teenagers saw an opportunity and took advantage of a few moments to cause a little trouble.
The irony of this break-in is that the thieves had missed the most valuable articles in the room. Wrapped inside one of my shirts in my suitcase was my wallet. Not wanting to carry it all day long, I had removed my driver's license, my credit card, some money, and my temple recommend, and left the rest behind--two credit cards, my debit card, and most of my cash. Wrapped in another shirt was a $500 lens for my camera. Neither was discovered.

Dad's stuff that was stolen was mostly sentimental and can be physically replaced, but in hindsight, I was so thankful that we weren't spending the night cancelling credit cards and tracing expenditures online.

It could have been worse.

Even with such a disappointing end to our final day, I went to bed still carrying a positive view of the people we had encountered that day, grateful that I made memories that will last forever.


  1. In all my traveling about the country, I have come to the same conclusion. So many good people in the world. It is a shame a few...and the media would portray things differently. We ran into many, many nice people who were kind, helpful and generous.

  2. Loved the "good" story and wish the "bad" one hadn't happened.

    But all in all, I agree. The "good" wins.