Journey of Trust to the Pinball Hall of Fame

hof

Now that is a seriously large gumball machine!

Nobody trusts anyone, or why did they put TILT on a pinball machine…

–Steve McQueen

I like a destination. And when I’m traveling for work, I like to get my exercise not in the fitness room, if at all possible, but by walking around my new environment and getting a feeling for where I am. Staying in a cheap government per diem hotel in Las Vegas, doesn’t always put you in the optimal location for fantastic hikes, but it does often put you smack in the middle of an adventure. Knowing this was my only opportunity in the next four days to walk outside (during the day before mugging hours), my quest was to get to the closest attraction on Google maps from my location.  That meant just shy of a 3.5 mile walk (one way) to the Pinball Hall of Fame. With dusk on the horizon, I knew I needed to make this walk snappy.  I walked on sidewalks along busy six lane streets bordered by chain linked fences topped with barbed wire curls. Planes dipped so close to my head I fought the urge to duck. I thought it quite convenient there was a mortuary and graveyard across the street.

pinball-map

My route to the Pinball Hall of Fame.

When I finally got off the main thoroughfare and around the airport, I turned in the direction of my target. I can’t say I felt particularly better here, but at least the airplanes weren’t after me. As I walked past Siegfried and Roy Park, which consisted of gravel and a giant silver mushroom-like statue, I passed row after row of apartments. Tucked beneath several of the gates were homeless people. And between them, rows of stores that included at least one or more of the following: liquor stores, tattoo parlors, and smoke shops.

luckys

How lucky! Open 24 hours!

I said “hi” to those I passed, looking less out of place than you would think. The temperature was a cool 45 degrees so I was sporting my black stocking cap, black running gloves, sunglasses, and a black leather jacket (the only coat I had brought). I looked like a hood in the hood. That probably was a good thing. After an hour of walking, I made it! The Pinball Hall of Fame.

I was not too impressed by the sign. Where were the neon and flashing lights? Where were the free food and fountains? I clearly had not walked far enough.

pinball-hof

Not the most impressive building I’ve ever seen, but I’d made it this far!

I went in and was shocked by the number of people inside (despite the missing cars in the lot). For $0.75 a game, you could play pinball on machines from the 1960s to modern day. I walked among the pinging and ringing, snapped a few photos and then quickly left.

elvira

Elvira! Now that is a pretty high score!

Now I had a dilemma. It was getting dark. And though I looked like I could rob a bank, I didn’t feel like it. Luckily, I had a twenty dollar bill and had scanned the bus routes earlier that day. I stopped at a nearby 7-11 to get change and purchase water. Two men wearing construction uniforms sat at the video slots and finished off their day with a bit of hope. I stood in line behind five people (all unrelated), each with multiple 24 oz. Bud Ice beers in their hands.  Apparently they knew something I didn’t. My Aquafina was clearly not the best bargain in town.

budice711

At this point I started jogging toward Eastern Avenue. As I reached the corner of Tropicana and Eastern, I saw the bus parked at a stop about 100 meters in front of me. I started sprinting. There was a man waiting to board and by the time I reached the bus the same man was still standing patiently waiting his turn. The fellow in front of him was feeding the bus fare machine slowly with pennies and nickels (possibly not realizing it was not a slot machine), but I was grateful. I caught my breath as the gentleman ahead of me and  I assisted by picking up rogue pennies as they rolled off the machine and onto the bus floor.

I hopped on the double decker bus and watched as a colorful cast of characters got on and off  (fully aware I was one of them). I was even asked where my motorcycle was! That’s how “bad to the bone” I looked!

As I stepped off the bus (forgetting my bottle of purchased water on public transit for the second time that day), I was happy I trusted Vegas enough to go for a walk, and happy Vegas trusted a hood like me.

Distraction Only Masks the Pain

paradise

A nice place to be in pain ..but it still hurts.

Blog Reader Warning: This post is not uplifting. If you are an eternal optimist, Osh Popham, or Pollyanna…stop reading now.

I am in quite a bit of pain today. My neck is so stiff I can’t turn my head. I am seriously considering going to an emergency clinic for muscle relaxants. The problem with pain is there is never a good time for it. I happen to be on vacation trying to relax, but it is pretty hard when you can’t turn your head and all you can hear is your brain screaming. Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Now if you are a follower of mine on Facebook, you probably saw a different version of my vacation. You saw my smiling face as the winner of my self-inflicted Coconut Decathlon. Vacation is awesome. My smile is real. But so is my pain.

Today, when my pain was at its height, I excused myself to go float down the lazy river. I adjusted myself in the inner tube so my neck was resting as gently as it could and I prepared to distract myself to mask the pain.

First, I pretended I was baby Moses going down the Nile…being rocked gently by the water…oblivious to the alligators floating beneath. I pretended to giggle and coo at the birds and palms as they passed overhead.

Next, I became Anne of Green Gables. I relived one of my favorite moments where she lies down flat in a canoe, closes her eyes like she is dead, and launches herself down the river while reciting Alfred Lord Tennyson’s The Lady of Shallot.

As I came around the corner, I could hear the rushing falls. I pretended it was the distant sound of Niagara and I was in a barrel headed toward the edge. As the sound became intense, I crossed myself…a mighty rush covered me… but I made it out to the other side.

These tactics worked for a bit. I practiced them a lot when I lived for six grueling months with a herniated disc in my back. I learned how to put the pain in a different compartment in my head and go on living.

Sadly, this made me think of my friends back home. My dear friends and their 16-year-old son who passed away by suicide exactly one year ago today. Noah, couldn’t distract his pain any longer. And now his parents and brother…and community… are still in pain. All trying to live between the ebbs and flows of feeling the pain and distracting it.  Feeling and distracting. Feeling and distracting. Like the waves under my inner tube on the river Styx.

My pain in the neck will eventually go away (I hope). Their pain won’t ever go away completely…not the way Noah’s did. I suppose they shouldn’t expect it to.  None of us should really. Pain…whether physical, mental,  or emotional…is either felt or distracted…until it ends.  And, sadly, some pain just doesn’t ever go away.

My heart goes out to you today, my friends.

I’ll Have a Neck Pillow with a Side of Scientology, Please?

menu

Hmmmm….what to order?

These two menu cards were on my dresser in my hotel room this week. How nice. Menus. I love menus! They mean I get to choose. But these were like no menus I’d ever seen.

First of all, let’s look at the Pillow Menu.  I was all over that one. Finally, a hotel that understands my need to gather most of the pillows in the room and build a fake “husband” on the other side of my bed so I subconsciously feel a familiar presence and sleep well. With the menu, I could just get one pillow that would do the job. A body pillow! Order it up!

But what to go with it? Let’s see. What goes well with a body pillow? A Bhagavad Gita or a Tao Te Ching or …….wait… hold the phone! This Spiritual Menu was flawed. I’m sorry, but the whole idea of a Spiritual Menu was already a strange concept to me, but after I read it, I was utterly confused. (The curse of the editor strikes again.)

The menu says: Time to Reflect? Let us bring up a copy of your book of faith. So, I started to reflect. If you are going to go to the trouble of making such a menu, shouldn’t you provide choices based statistically on people’s religious preferences? If that was the aim, then there were definitely some missing and lopsided choices on this menu. I decided to analyze how well they did.

Here’s what the world looks like based on size of major religious groups.

pie-chart

Size of Major Religious Groups, Pew Research Center, 2010

So, how did the Spiritual Menu stack up to world stats?

  • 31% of the people had two menu choices: King James Bible or New American Bible. I prefer the New International Version myself, which was not available, but two choices isn’t bad.  Check.
  • 23% of the people had their book of choice, the Koran. Check.
  • 16% of the people didn’t have anything on the menu because they don’t really have a “holy book.” This piece of the pie includes atheists, agnostics, or people that don’t identify with any particular religion. Maybe, just maybe, that is who this menu was actually meant for…not sure of the hotel management’s motives. Sort of Check.
  • 15% of the people were offered the Bhagavad Gita. The Hindus actually have several holy texts including the Vedas, the Upanisads, the Smrutis, Ramayana, Mahabharata (which includes the Bhagavad Gita) and the Puranas. Would they be satisfied with just the Gita? Probably not. Very Partial Check.
  • 7% would be quite disappointed with the menu item called the Eight Noble Truths (Buddhism). Though a tenant of the religion, a book on the truths isn’t really their”holy book.” It certainly isn’t the forty volumes of Buddha’s teachings, known as the Sutras. I believe the Buddhists would be a bit offended. After all, if you have to tell a Buddhist in parenthesis that the Eight Noble Truths belong to them, then we’ve got a problem already. Not Check.
  • 6% of the people are out of luck. I imagine this would be a pretty hard library to obtain. This piece of the pie, folk religions, includes faiths that are usually associated with a particular group of people, ethnicity, or tribe. So you’d have to hunt down copies of everything from the Mayan Popol Vuh to the African Hwlɛngãn. Not Check.
  • 1% of people in “other religions” had three choices on this menu: What is Scientology, which I’m pretty sure is a pamphlet, not a holy book; Tao Ti Ching , a book for Taoists; and the Book of Mormon. But this 1% also includes Baha’i faith,  Jainism, Shintoism, Sikhism, Tenrikyo, Wicca, Zoroastrianism, and many others. A Very, Very Partial Check.
  • 0.2% (which is usually a percentage that surprises a lot of people) got theirTorah. I like to play a game with this pie chart and make people guess which religions go with which pie slice. I have yet to find someone who gets this slice even close to right. People usually pick Judaism as one of the larger slices. But regardless of the tiny percentage, they have a book on the menu. Check.

I still don’t know what to think of this menu. I’m not sure if the Gideons would be flattered or horrified. As for me, I couldn’t decide which I wanted to order because at this point I kind of wanted to read them all. But I didn’t have that kind of time for contemplation. My brain already hurt and all I had done so far was reflect on the menu.

Walk With a Purpose

sign

I like this quote even more now that I understand how to interpret it.

When I was 21, I went to New York City for a Technical Communication conference. As I walked through Central Park at dusk toward my hotel, I became acutely aware of some rather shady characters following me. I realized at that moment my desire to see everything I possibly could in this new fantastic city might have well been tempered with a bit more caution. The words “walk with a purpose” echoed in my brain. I held my head high, eyes forward, and picked up my pace with the strength of a soldier marching into battle. I caught up to a group of strangers heading the same direction and stayed close behind until I reached 72nd Avenue and familiar ground.

That day I learned something. I am not invincible, but I do have power…and drive. And I never wanted to be afraid to try. I was a pretty fearless kid, and now as an adult, I didn’t want that to change. That’s not to say I wouldn’t or shouldn’t apply a bit of caution at times…but not too much. If I wanted to see life….then I needed to go see it. If I wanted to learn something…then I needed to learn it. If I wanted to go somewhere or do something…even if there was some inherent risk…then I needed to do it. Sometimes this philosophy has cost me a heavy price. But what has kept me running full speed down this path is my consistent motivation to move in a positive direction …toward helping and loving others and the world…all the time. It makes the price of the effort always, always worth it.  But just walking with purpose has never been enough for me…I’ve felt compelled to walk it as fast as I possibly can. Hence, the pictured quote above.

Our life on this Earth is pretty short. As I reach my midline in years, this becomes more and more apparent. If I’m honest with myself, this “risk-taking, go full throttle” philosophy of life has made me pretty tired. On the plus side, I can’t look back and say I haven’t walked, often run, without purpose…and for that I’m grateful. But, now, what to do about the bags under my eyes?

Lately, I’ve started to slow down (I’ve named it failure) and it’s been forcing me to rethink my philosophy. Do I really need to push myself this hard? Is that what “walking with a purpose” really means? I keep coming to the same conclusion. Yes. Until there is no more purpose – until I come to a different understanding of the meaning of life—then I’m in for another tiring 50+ years or however long I last at this pace!

That is, until today.

Today, some 27 years since my New York City adventure, I found myself on another business trip–in the opposite direction—Tacoma, Washington. On the airplane, I sat by an older couple (who held hands during the flight) and needed wheelchair assistance at the gate. The wife told me they lived in Portland and needed to make a connecting flight. But, alas, our flight was 30 minutes late and when we landed it didn’t seem promising they would make it. I thought to myself, “I’ll jump up and tell everyone to sit down and to let them out first so they can make their flight. Then, I’ll alert the flight attendants about the wheelchairs.” As the seat belt signal pinged off and the plane parked, everyone stood up and started disemboweling the plane. The flight attendant announced, “Those waiting for wheelchairs can just sit tight. The chairs haven’t arrived at the gate yet.” I looked at her and said, “I’m sorry. I’m not sure if you’ll make your flight.” She shrugged and said, “That’s ok. You can only move as fast as you can move.”

Whoa.

You can only move as fast as you can move.

I’m not 21 anymore. I’m not a lot of things I was anymore. I can only move as fast as I can move. Sometimes that’s pretty fast. But some days….it just isn’t.

So, my picture quote above isn’t exactly wrong. It still means something to me. I’m still going to push myself and walk with a purpose. What’s different now is the “ability” I’m measuring needs to be based on my ability today and today only. Tomorrow I’ll have a new ability level to judge myself by and it might be better than today…or not.

Sometimes walking with a purpose looks like sitting and waiting.

Thank you my profound Portlander!

What I’ve Learned about America from Norwegians

food

Just a few of the American delicacies purchased by our Norwegian friends.

Grape Crush. Nacho-flavored Slim Jims. Pop-Tarts. Froot Loops. Kool-Aid.

These were the first purchases made by my son’s 20- and 22-year-old friends visiting from Norway this month. They also wanted to try peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, s’mores, and Mexican food, as well as go to Walmart, Chili’s, the Nike outlet, and KFC. These were top on their to-do list…even before skiing, hiking, or any other form of recreation or sightseeing.

What does this say about America?

I could be snarcastic (new favorite word) and say it means we have a reputation for gluttony, sugar, and junk food. But I think that if I did, I just might be missing a different perspective. Sure, there are plenty of issues we need to solve in the United States, but what I’ve learned from both my son’s life in Norway last year and his friends visiting here is that the United States is pretty incredible. Here are some of my observations:

  1. Choices. The reason my son’s Norwegian friends are so enamored with the junk food is because they hear about the foods from American movies and on YouTube. They see the incredible bounty of things they can’t get anywhere else. We do have a lot of choices, but there is a good reason for that. We compete to make things people like and we get really, really good at it. Where else can you buy 387 types of cereal?
  2. Economy. The exchange rate was 6 Krone to the dollar when my son was in Norway last year. Today it is 9 Krone to the dollar. That’s a huge change in a year. Why? Because Norway is a country reliant on oil production, which took a hit this year. They are a country the size of Colorado with an oil resource comparable to Saudi Arabia. This means that Norwegians can subsidize all kinds of things with “oil money”…school, healthcare, etc. But when the oil industry takes a hit, the whole country starts to hurt. All of the things Norwegians have come to rely on, such as “free” healthcare or humongous electric vehicle incentives, suddenly become harder to support. To think that places like Norway are good economic models for the United States might be a mistake. We need to make sure we understand where the money is coming from before deciding if systems  and seemingly awesome policies are right for us. It has worked for Norway because they have a few people with a ton of one primary resource (2 million barrels produced a day for 5 million people in Norway versus 9.3 million barrels a day for 323 million people in the United States). For us to work like Norway, we would have to produce oil at a rate of more than 140 million barrels a day. That is not really realistic. We couldn’t use or sell that much, nor would we want to. What I’ve learned is that we can’t compare ourselves or our policies  to other countries very easily. It is pretty complex.
  3. Kindness. Americans are incredibly generous and kind. When my son’s friend walked into Chipotle this week and told the people behind the counter that he was visiting America for the first time, they joyfully gave him a free burrito and welcomed him to the U.S.A.  Our Norwegian guests have told me that they can’t believe how nice everyone is in America…how people say “hello” …how people want to talk to them…. and how willing people are to offer a helping hand.

So, my American friends, crack open a bottle of Grape Crush. Raise your glasses high. You are amazing people. Cheers to you! America is pretty great.

 

Ode to the Cranberry Crush

crush

Queen of the Road in the Cranberry Crush. Six wheels and a spare. Sweet freedom!

It has been a long dry spell without four wheels (see post on Hurricane Wilma). Two wheels I’ve always had and will always cherish. Now I guess you could say I have six wheels and a spare. I’ve been dreaming about the day I would get a car of my very own and my dream was big. Not just any car — my dream car — a Toyota Tacoma Off-Road Sport truck with an access cab.  One that had enough room for a couple of bikes in the bed and maybe a kayak. It was a great dream.

This July 30 that dream became a reality when I leased my new baby, which I lovingly call the Cranberry Crush. And, I haven’t looked back.  The Crush and I have traveled 4,700 miles together already.

The Crush makes me smile every day. I think because it isn’t just a car. It is freedom! When I took my mother-in-law for her inaugural ride in the Crush, I was beaming.  I told her how I was free to go anywhere now.  I could go to the grocery store anytime I wanted. I told her how I could leave for work when I wanted. I told her how I could carry my bicycle and ride off into the mountains. I told her to look in the back and notice how the access cab was big enough to carry suitcases, but not really big enough to carry extra people and that is just how I wanted it. The Crush was built for me and one other person of my choosing and today that was her.

As our joyride continued and we were at a stoplight, she cut off my freedom speech and looked me in the eye. She said in her most serious voice, “Trish, remember, you still have a family.” We laughed. I must have worried her just a tad with my adrenaline-pumped monologue. I assured her I wouldn’t forget. The Cranberry Crush isn’t a replacement for family–it is a new member. Just don’t ask to borrow the keys…I’m not quite ready to share yet.

Sorry boys! My truck is called the Cranberry Crush. Too girly sounding for you to drive, but tough enough to get through anything.

Sorry, boys! My truck is called the Cranberry Crush…too girly sounding for you to drive, but tough enough to get through anything.

Lessons from Hurricane Wilma: 10 Years Later

guatamala

The girls in Guatemala and me. Who knew we had so much in common?

Anniversaries are a good time to reflect. This week (technically, October 26, 2005) is the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Wilma, the fourth costliest hurricane on record according to the National Weather Service.

It was the first costliest for me.

I can still remember watching the TV, our eyes glued as the storm sat over the Yucatan Peninsula for three days instead of the predicted 28 hours. The newscasters said things like, “The fact that this Category 5 hurricane is sitting over Cancun is really good news. It will take some of the strength out of it before it reaches Florida.”

Oh, really? That’s good news? Not for the people in Cancun. Not for our friends and employees. And definitely not for us.

It has been a very long 10 years. Ten years of recovering financially from a startup business, which was quite literally destroyed with a gust of terror. Ten years of rebuilding, not once, not twice, but multiple times. Being innovative and on the cutting edge wasn’t as marketable as we thought, especially when we later hit speed bump number two: the economic recession.  Ten years rebuilding careers and rebuilding bank accounts.

This week also marks the first time in 10 years my husband and I finally looked at each other and said, “I think we are finally there.” We are on a trajectory that doesn’t take us back under water (knock on wood). A trajectory of hope. Wow! Almost exactly 10 years later. It has been a long 10 years.

When I was in Guatemala doing a home visit with my friend’s sponsored child through Starfish, we sat in a circle with her family and they asked us questions. In the midst of her little bedroom that she shares with four siblings, she asked me, “Have you ever experienced any hardship and what is your advice for getting through it?” She explained. Her perception of people from the United States was that we are very rich and we don’t have to struggle.

I told her my story. How we had built a business and worked multiple jobs to survive while we built it. How we had put all of our time and money into it and how it was crushed in an instant by a hurricane. How we lost everything and that put us into huge debt and how we had to muscle our way back. I told her it was because of our education and a lot of caring people that we were able to recover. You can lose all your money and all of your things, but nothing can take away your experiences and your knowledge. Those are treasures beyond value and that is what makes it possible to rebuild. To dream again. (I think it was the best “stay in school” speech I’ve ever given.)

I remember the shock on her face as the translator relayed the story. She couldn’t believe that someone in the United States would have those kinds of troubles. Both of our eyes were opened that day. We are all alike. We all have wounds and struggles and hardships. They are not all the same, but this broken world is broken for us all.

The lessons I’ve learned in the last 10 years have changed me in so many ways.

I’ve been humbled. And I’ve learned how to humbly receive. Having someone pay your water bills or help you with your mortgage will do that.

I’ve been loved. And I’ve learned how to have an incredible marriage.

I’ve been judged. And I’ve learned how to shake it off and be understanding.

I’ve been hungry. And I’ve learned how to feed others.

I’ve been given gifts. And I’ve learned how to give more.

Do I wish it never would have happened? Sometimes. Am I glad for the perspective it has brought me? Absolutely.

As an added bonus to my learnings, my husband and I are now expert couch critics when watching Shark Tank. Here’s to the next 10 years! I can only hope I gain as much perspective as I’ve gained over the last.

cancun-office

In memory of TekTrek and our little office in Cancun. A dream that blew away.

Red Shoes

My son's red racing flats.

My son’s red racing flats

When I went shopping with my son  for his first pair of racing flats for cross country, he looked over the choices and zeroed in on a bright red pair. Like a good mom, I made him try them on and smashed my finger by the toes to see if there was room to grow. I asked him if they were comfortable.  His answer didn’t convince me that they were a good fit.  But, there was no changing his mind.  He was sure this was the pair.  When asked what he liked about them he said, “These shoes say: I’m here and I can do something!” I couldn’t argue with that. Four years of cross country later, he proved that statement true.  When he put on those shoes, he could do something.

A couple years later that experience was repeated in a most unexpected place. I was in Guatemala traveling with a friend and helping support her work with Starfish — whose mission is to unlock and maximize the potential of young women in Guatemala. One afternoon after we finished our teaching duties, my friend and I headed to the outdoor market. I had brought just a little bit of extra cash to Guatemala, figuring I would bring something back for my sons. As we walked through the square we were greeted by two boys, about 8 or 9 years old. They asked if we wanted to see the statue of Maximon (pronounced Mashimon), a local mixture of a Catholic saint and a Mayan deity.  We inferred they wanted payment for the favor. After speaking to them in Spanish and asking for their names and ages, we inquired what they wanted to do with the money. The boys said they needed shoes. Looking down at their feet, the fact was verified.  We walked with the boys to the market and asked them to show us where to find shoes. In the market there was a table with rows of shoes lined up under an open air canopy. No marked sizes—just rows of shoes. I started perusing the shoes for comfort and utility, but the kids zeroed in on one style in particular–they were bright red. We searched around to find the shoes in their sizes and like typical moms with sons, we made them stand while we pressed our thumbs on the toes to see if they had room to grow. I pulled my little bit of souvenir money out of my pocket and helped pay for the shoes. We laced them up, shook the boys’ hands, and said farewell.  I’m pretty sure it was the best “souvenir” I’ve ever bought.

It has been a couple of years now, and I’m sure those shoes have been well used and outgrown. But my prayer is that the boys found a way to move forward, to continue to help their families, and have found some relief from poverty. I hope that it was more than just a few fleeting moments that they ran through the streets — their feet silently screaming to the people of Panajachel, “Look at me! I’m here and I can do something!”

red-shoes-kids

Red shoes. The best souvenir I ever bought.

Are You Thirsty Yet?

Seattle

My journey took me here…but really someplace else altogether.

There is nothing like business travel to make you soul search…especially when you travel by yourself for several weeks in a row. This time I was in Seattle. After work I watched a fist fight ensue out the window of my downtown government per diem hotel, but I decided I needed to suck it up and get outside. My challenge – find the Space Needle then the fish market then loop around the aquarium and locate my hotel again all while avoiding the fist fighters.  My walk started out quite successfully. I made it all the way to the Space Needle. Then I found the monorail and decided to be a tourist and hop aboard. While standing in line, a man shouted sarcastically, “What’s so great about this?” The crowd averted their eyes. After an extremely short ride we all disembarked. The man continued making snide remarks as we marched down the stairs. He was walking right in front of me and we traveled the same direction toward the fish market. He started harassing a woman talking on her cell phone in front of him. He repeated words from her conversation, “Yes, tell me how that relationship is going? We ALL want to hear!” His boldness was painful. I don’t remember how, but we all scattered to get away. It made me wonder…was he mentally ill? Was he angry? Why didn’t anyone tell him to stop? Why didn’t I?

The next leg of my journey led me through the fish market and down the steps to the water. I passed by a man who looked like he could have been Bob Marley’s long lost brother. He was selling bottles of water for $1 out of a cooler to the sweaty tourists. ARE YOU THIRSTY YET? That’s what his sign said. I stopped and told him I wasn’t thirsty yet, but I was planning on being thirsty eventually. He smiled and I continued on.

As I made my way toward the aquarium I walked past a young woman holding a piece of cardboard that said “Need help with rent, diapers, and food. Two kids.” Next to her, a stroller. Inside, a baby. I watched as all eyes avoided her and conversations between friends, parents, and children picked up nervously when they noticed her, as to mean, “we are talking so we can’t see you.”  As I power walked by her, we made eye contact, and my heart broke.  I looked down and was struck hard by the message written boldly on my favorite workout shirt — “Live Generously.” I couldn’t get her out of my head. I had $11 in my pocket and I knew what I needed to do. The crazy, mean guy from the train taught me a lesson. If he can be bold enough to harass people, then I can be bold enough to bless them.

I did my lap around the aquarium and started back the way I came. I found the woman and stopped. I introduced myself and asked her about her life. What brought her to this point? How was she seeking help? What worried her most? She introduced me to her baby, Jude (she called him Judicans Cuticans). She tried not to smile, though it was hard for her not to when looking at her adorable sleeping baby. Her teeth were yellow and she was missing a front tooth from a vitamin deficiency during pregnancy. Her teeth made her feel self-conscious and she shared with me how this problem made her nervous during job interviews. Affording dental work was not a possibility. After about an hour of chatting, I reached in my pocket and gave her my $10 bill and asked if there was any other way I could help. She shook her head. I hugged her, told her she would be in my prayers, and continued on. I had $1 left and I knew just where I was going next. I was thirsty.