Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Summer Trip '08, Part II, or, How to Spend Thirteen Days on the Road With Your Family and Still Love Them (and Have Them Still Love You)

Part I is here.


I left you hanging in a small town in Pennsylvania yesterday.

A small, depressing town. Not much there -- just a cluster of hotels, gas stations, bars and a pizza place.

We ate dinner at the pizza place.

We dubbed it New Wave Pizza. It's not all that often that you stop for pizza in a small, depressing town and hear all New Wave, All the Time. Rock Lobster, Love Shack, London Calling, the English Beat ... Atticus and I told very '80s stories to the kids and waxed nostalgic and felt not at all depressed.

The radio station, we decided, was possibly chosen by our waitress. She was such a funny mix of perky and punk. The eye make-up was stark, a little bit of black, but the smile was sweet and engaging. The tongue piercing said she was too cool to be there, but be there she was. She served us quickly and well and with a smile. She thought Ramona was cute. We thought she was nice. We paid our bill and left.

Then, somehow, as we drove off, the amount of the tip came up. Atticus had tipped 15%, which he thought was fine for pizza, even New Wave pizza. I scolded. "15%? That poor girl works in this crummy little town and probably has to live on her tips! You should have given her at least 20%, if not more." I was mostly teasing, but Atticus felt bad all the same. We went back. He ran in to drop off a few more dollars (because he's just that sweet, though he'll hate that I'm telling this story.)

Our waitress laughed and insisted that the original tip had been "Fine, just fine!" But he explained that his nagging dear wife had insisted he do better. She laughed, he tipped and left, and we drove to our hotel in the pouring rain and settled in for the night.

And that would have been that.

But, the next morning, after taking the kids swimming, we packed up and were hauling our mountain of luggage out of our room, just in the nick of checkout time, when housekeeping appeared. And, who should our maid be?

Our New Wave waitress.

She did a double-take. We did a double-take.

"Didn't you eat last night at .... " she began.

"Yes, we did," we laughed.

She laughed, too, and then we all wished one another good days in this small world, and we headed down the hall toward the elevator.

But, in my heart, I was wishing this girl more than a good day. I was wishing her a good life. Her tough exterior notwithstanding, I sensed something more. I still can't articulate exactly why I was so touched that she watched us walk down the hall (I know she was still watching us, because I turned back to give her a little wave) with a smile on her face the whole time, as if she, too, sensed something more in this coincidence.

That night, at the next hotel in the next town, as we finished up our family prayers, I added, "And for Rachel. I'm adding Rachel to our nightly prayers, guys."

"Who's Rachel?" they asked.

"The pizza waitress. The maid. The girl who lives in that depressing little town and makes her living cleaning hotel rooms and waiting tables. She can't have an easy life. I think God wants us to pray for her."

A quick caveat: there's nothing wrong with the honest labor of cleaning and serving. I could do several posts on the idea that good, honest labor doesn't get enough respect. It's not that such work is somehow "not good enough." No, no. That's not it.

It was the tough exterior that spoke out, that told me, on some level, she wanted something more, something different ... perhaps a more daring and exciting life than the one she is living. And I felt prompted to pray that she'll find something more -- the real, divine Something More that is the only thing that really counts.

And so we pray for Rachel, a sweet young girl in a small Pennsylvania town -- a town that really wasn't so depressing after all.

Because where there are coincidences, there is hope.

Tomorrow ... on to falling water and winding roads.


patience said...

Beautiful post.

Alice Gunther said...

Beautiful, as always, Karen. I can't wait to hear more.

Diane said...

This story is so beautifully written, Karen. I wonder how often God brings strangers into our lives that touch our hearts in some way in the hopes that we will pray for them. God bless you for noticing. Someday you will know just how much those prayers meant for her. Who knows where they may take her?

Jennifer said...

What a sweet story. We will pray for her too.

Denise said...

That was a beautiful story...the kind that makes family vacations memorable for many years after the rest of the vacation sights and memories have faded.