We arrived in Cincinnati yesterday afternoon for our third homeschool convention this month — and we went out of town to see our daughter Bethany and her family twice this month, too! It’s been wonderful. Ray and I have many theme songs. I guess one of them is Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again” because I certainly sing the first line “yots and yots.” (One of our children substituted l for y and y for l when she was “yittle”: one of the primary colors was lellow and one of the rooms in our house was the yiving room — all at the same time. I guess that’s where we got that silly family phrase: “yots and yots.” I’d love to hear one of your silly family phrases. If you have one to share, I invite you to leave a comment.)
When Ray and I arrived at our hotel, our friend Olive, who is helping us with this convention, was already here; so she, Ray, and I walked over to Fountain Square for supper while we waited for John and his family to arrive. When Olive came back to the table after a visit to the counter that took much longer than Ray and I expected, she told us that one of the servers was crying.
Everyone has a story. None of us knew this girl’s story, but she had one.
We had been in Cincinnati less than two hours and this poor girl was the fifth person with a story who had stood out to me in this crowded city.
Story 1: Ray has been doing most of the convention driving for the past few years and this year I’m trying to give him a break. It’s his turn to work on projects in the car and mine to be in the driver’s seat.
After a long leisurely drive through the beautiful Kentucky countryside, I turned onto the dreaded rat race of I-75. When you cross the Ohio River, you are in a canyon of tall buildings almost immediately. We found our hotel right away. However when we rural Tennesseans who usually drive up under an awning at Comfort Inn arrived, we were unsure about how to get unloaded on the busy city street. We tried to assess the situation quickly and then took a lap around the block to regroup.
I love to watch people. To my delight, I saw a very average-looking middle-aged man with a dog on a leash. I wouldn’t have been surprised at a collie or a terrier, but I was surprised to see his little lap dog of some sort, dressed in a bright pink dress. I don’t know why this man was walking around Cincinnati with a little lap dog in a pink dress, but it has something to do with his story.
Story 2: When we came back around to the hotel, we tried one of two unloading parking spots in the front. Ray got out and directed me as I tried to parallel park (not one of my favorite pastimes). I did fine. I know because a young man with a red umbrella came to the window of the car and told me so again and again. He even told me that I did a much better job than his wife did. Then he asked Ray for 23 cents. I kinda hate to reveal my timidity then, but I surreptitiously asked Ray to get back in the car and roll the window up. Then we sat not exactly knowing what to do. The young man and a friend kept hanging out on the sidewalk near our car. Not knowing what they might do if we opened up our packed-to-the-gills vehicle and started to unload our luggage, we decided to drive away and try some sort of Plan B. I don’t know how that young man with the red umbrella came to make two Tennessee strangers feel intimidated on the street, but it has something to do with his story.
Story 3: Plan B was to go to the side of the hotel where bellhops were waiting to unload vehicles. We had avoided that option the first time in an effort to save the cost of a tip, but, on second thought, we decided it was a safer option than the unattended front door. Our bellhop looked to me like a character in a song that Sam Watkins quotes in his Civil War memoir Co. Aytch — an “ancient individual.” I don’t know how an ancient individual ends up working as a bellhop in downtown Cincinnati, but it has something to do with his story.
Story 4: After our bellhop got our luggage cart loaded (with the help of a younger bellhop), Ray went to park the car and I went inside to check in. John had made the reservations months ago with a credit card I didn’t have with me so I was a little concerned when I noticed that my desk clerk’s name tag identified her as a trainee. She did a good job, though, and I left with our keys. I don’t know where she has been or where she is headed but this stint as a hotel clerk at a downtown hotel in Cincinnati is part of her story.
You have a story. Each of your children has a story that will get more and more interesting. One of your jobs, as you know, is to encourage him to love his story’s Author with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love other people, who also have stories, as he loves himself.
And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test,
“Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
And He said to him, “What is written in the Law?
How does it read to you?” And he answered,
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
and with all your soul,
and with all your strength,
and with all your mind;
and your neighbor as yourself.”
And He said to him, “You have answered correctly;
do this and you will live.”