Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Memorial Day

I decided that what I needed was a long walk. I decide this often, but something about a view looking out at the river and park makes me feel that in some small way I'm already out there... vicariously getting the fresh air and exercise I know I need through the people four stories below...

Thankfully, a break in my schedule opened up at the last minute, so I replaced my sandals with sneakers and headed out.

Life sometimes has a wonderful way of giving you more than you expect. Those moments are made even more wonderful when you're already expecting great things. For me, a warm, sunny day, fresh air and a walk in nature are about as good as it gets, so to be given more was a real treat.

The waterfront bordering the west side highway is always filled with people- walkers, cyclists and rollerbladers... workers eating lunch, children playing with mommies and nannies nearby, and lovers creatively wrapping around one another. But today, something was different. All eyes were directed to the river, to witness what a paused runner told me was the beginning of Fleet Week.

Sure enough, a parade of boats was starting to go by, just as a series of fighter planes flew in configuration directly overhead. I'm not sure what was more incredible, the ceremony of it all, or the looks on the faces of everyone present... joy and awe.

A man with his daughter on his shoulders offered binoculars, and the moment went from beautiful to sacred... the men and women I'd seen as little white spots mingling on board the nearest ship were in fact standing in rigid and proud salute, to us, the city of New York.

Memorial Day for so many of us, myself included, is a wonderful chance to take an extended break- to enjoy that extra day of relaxation before revving up the real life engine once again. Today gave me pause to remember what this long weekend is really all about, no matter your political views... the struggle for peace, the mourning of loss, and gratitude for those who have served and serve the cause of freedom for not only themselves, but in the hopes that others too may be free.


Saturday, May 16, 2009

Angels Among Us

I've never felt that I've been given more than I can handle in life. Sometimes it seems to get really darn close, but then something always happens to rescue me at just the right moment. An unexpected smile from someone on the subway, a tender word from the guy at Starbucks. A child in his mother's arms knowingly touching my face in the elevator, a dog racing toward me in the park, determined that wild, unbridled affection is just what I need at that exact moment…

Earlier today, I was in Grand Central Station. I'd had a really difficult week, and some friends were kind enough to offer their home for me to rest and reflect. I vaguely remember them promising to make me laugh, let me cry, smother me with care and leave me alone.

I bought my ticket and treated myself to lunch. I could feel the sadness starting to seep through the brave face I'd been trying to wear. It felt good, and felt even better knowing that I'd soon be somewhere where I could let it come and fully feel it. I was looking forward to that release, only an hour or so away, as I went to pay the bill… only to realize that my wallet was missing.

Mortified, I promised to bring the counter waitress the money – to which she simply smiled and told me not to worry – as I gave her my bag as collateral before racing off. I ran frantically to the bathroom where by now I was certain I left it. No one had seen it, though people I've never met looked deeply into my eyes, touched my shoulder and arm, and sighed with me. I ran to the lost and found, which was closed, but found a police officer who, with the kindest smile, took my cell phone number and promised to personally call if anyone turned it in. He sweetly pretended not to notice the tears now streaming uncontrollably down my face… tears that had nothing to do with my wallet. He told me to go to the station manager, give his name, and to say that he'd be up on his next break to pay for my ticket.

Silently weeping, I ran to the station manager. On my way, I passed a bartender and asked whether anyone had turned my wallet in. He said no, and with the most genuine look of concern asked whether I had any money to get home, offering me a $20. I thanked him, but told him that the officer already had it covered.

I stopped to ask the Metro North desk clerk whether he'd seen my wallet. As he sadly shook his head no, the woman sitting next to him came out from the booth, and holding my hand the whole way, walked me across the terminal to the station manager, assuring me in that knowing, soothing mother tone that everything would be just fine… just fine, baby.

The station manager listened to my story, and as she handed me the ticket – that she refused to charge the officer for, and instead paid for herself – touched my hand in a way that made my heart lurch. The desk clerk was still holding my other hand. As I thanked them both, the desk clerk I'd initially spoken to ran up to us, holding my wallet. I've never seen a more beaming, proud smile on a grown man's face. Apparently a woman had almost missed her train in order to make sure the wallet got to the 'right place'. It was as I'd left it- $360 in cash, a week's worth of clients' checks, all of my credit cards…

I'd missed the train I'd planned to take, and so – with 45 minutes to go before the next – went about finding the other Good Samaritans who'd been so kind to me. Alma, the counter waitress, had already paid my check with her own money, and refused to take my cash or a tip. Mike, the bartender, greeted me with a 'hooray!' and insisted we celebrate together with ginger ale, on the house. Another heart-melting smile, and I was off to find the police officer.

Jim clapped and laughed out loud when I came bursting through the door, wallet raised above my head. He told me how thrilled he was that it had been found, as they're rarely returned, and insisted that I celebrate with something much stronger than ginger ale when I got upstate…

As I was walking out the door, he called out, "Jennifer, you know, you have angels watching over you."

I told him that yes, I did.