Maintaining my peace…

During the drive from Bryan to Houston yesterday, I thought about a phone conversation I had with a friend shortly after arriving in Waco Saturday. He’d shared several examples of racism that he’d encountered over the last couple of days and as I thought about the call, it reminded me of an incident that happened as I checked out of the hotel in Waco. The desk clerk had stepped away and as I waited for her, an elderly white gentleman came up to check out as well, and we chatted while waiting. Upon the clerk’s return, she glanced momentarily at me but then focused her full attention on him and asked if she could help him. He informed her, however, that “this young lady was here before me.”

I could easily have taken her actions personally and been offended–and I probably would have not so many months ago–but I decided instead to maintain my peace and not let someone else’s behavior, or even beliefs, disrupt my day. After all, there could’ve been several reasons other than racism as to why she chose to assist him first–age before beauty comes to mind. She might have even considered where he was standing to be the head of the line. But whatever her reason, they were hers. And whether or not she got it, I think the gentleman made the point and I went on to enjoy the day exploring Lake Waco, Martin Luther King Jr. Park, and Indian Springs Park.

This is not meant to trivialize racism, or pretend that it doesn’t exist because I’m fully aware that it does. The point I’m making is that maybe we sometimes expect to be slighted or mistreated without even realizing it and end up attracting that very thing. And why is it that when things happen, we always assume the worst and take it personally? Maybe what I’m suggesting will be perceived as Pollyanna by some but it seems to me that life would be much easier and a lot more pleasant if we start expecting the best from each other, or looking for God in each other, as it were. In those instances where racism is the issue, deal with it but without taking it personally. Believe me, if the gentleman hadn’t told the desk clerk that I was first in line, I would have….and still gone about my day in peace.

By the way, it looks like I’ve missed another celebration: the Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities. A favored writer and author of the acclaimed Their Eyes Were Watching God and many others, Zora Neale Hurston grew up in Eatonville, FL, which was one of the first all-black towns to be formed after the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. It was incorporated in 1887. Eatonville stages the festival every winter; this year it was January 21-29. My friend went; maybe I’ll make it next year.

By the way, too, I finally made it to Houston after leaving Waco Sunday and spending Sunday night in Bryan. It was a wonder I made it here at all today because I kept stopping along Highway 6 to take pictures of barns and dilapidated buildings for a couple of friends. I was tired and feeling a little down when I arrived so instead of exploring Houston, I came directly to my hotel and spent the evening talking with family and friends. What great medicine that was!

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On the road to Houston

I left Dallas for Houston this morning but decided after stopping in Ennis for breakfast that I didn’t want to make that drive today. It had been a relaxing but sometimes busy and emotional week, and I didn’t get much sleep last night. So, I took the Highway 84 exit and traveled the back roads through Teague, Mexia, Bellmead then I-35S to Waco.

After driving through “downtown” Mexia, I was excited to see signs to Lake Mexia and Booker T. Washington Park. It was to Lake Mexia that I went first, walked about and took several pictures. I then headed to Booker T. Washington Park but there was only one sign directing me to it, and it was another road. Having grown up on a farm in rural southeast Georgia, I’m no stranger to back roads, dirt roads and deserted roads so I was in my element looking for the park. There was a moment, though, when I saw a bridge about 500 feet ahead on one of those roads that I got a really creepy feeling. Instead of proceeding further, I turned my car around and headed in the opposite direction. Yes, I’ve learned to follow those instincts. I don’t know what was on that bridge this afternoon, but I wasn’t curious enough to ignore that feeling.

Actually, that’s the second time since I began my road trip that this has happened. The first was in Oklahoma. I’d left Pauls Valley that morning and was headed to Dallas but decided to drive to Ardmore since my niece had lived there as a child and had mentioned it to me earlier that day. Gene Autry, OK was also in the area as was a park whose name I don’t recall. Instead of making the left turn toward Gene Autry as the GPS directed, I decided to go right. Why? Because there was a lake in view, of course. After making the right turn, my GPS recalculated and pointed me in an alternate direction that included a few deserted roads. I drove for several miles and saw only wide-open fields. After making the second turn, I drove about a quarter of a mile, spotted what looked like two trucks stopped in the road several hundred feet ahead, and a helicopter circling overhead. That creepiness surfaced, I slowed then turned my car around and headed back to the beaten path. I was curious, yes, but have learned over the years not to ignore those feelings.

I’m sitting in my hotel room in Waco now and it’s only 7 pm, but I am ready for bed!! From the title of this post, you’re probably wondering how I ended up talking about trusting instincts. I am, too, but I’m trusting this is what I needed to write.

But wait, I need to tell you about Booker T. Washington Emancipation Proclamation Park. After traveling those roads and not finding it (I got some good pictures, though), I reluctantly gave up. But just as I was heading back to the main road, I spotted a historical marker, and it was for Booker T. Washington Emancipation Proclamation Park. No wonder I couldn’t find it!

The marker reads in part:

“Set aside by deed in 1898 as a permanent site for celebrating June 19th– the anniversary of the 1865 emancipation of slaves in Texas. It was 2.5 miles south of this site that slaves of this area first heard their freedom announced… Even before land was dedicated for the park here, this was site of annual celebration on June 19th. For many years the honorable Ralph Long was the featured orator, speaking at times from bed of a wagon parked in the shade. As many as 20,000 often gathered for the occasion. On July 7, 1912, the 19th of June Organization was chartered, to administer the park and perpetuate regional history…”

I’ve heard of Juneteenth celebrations but despite wanting to, I have never attended one. I came close in Alabama many years ago but we arrived a day late.

A friend emailed me a few days ago saying, “I am glad you are enjoying your travels. I am sure you are seeing a lot of interesting places.” She’s right, and though I sometimes miss home and friends, I am grateful everyday for the opportunity to live this dream.

Life is grand!

Wow, what a fantastic day this has been! It started out with plans to attend The Potter’s House here in Dallas, an idea that presented itself in Oklahoma City last week while talking with Roxie at In the Cut Beauty and Barber. You see, The Potter’s House wasn’t on my list of things to do while in Dallas and since I’m supposed to be going with the flow on this road trip, I was completely open to Roxie’s suggestion. I happened upon Roxie when James at Mr. Sprigg’s Barbecue referred me to In the Cut for a haircut. When I got there, though, there wasn’t a barber on duty but Roxie and I had the best conversation before I left. Trae, who lived in Atlanta until a few months ago before he returned home to OKC and bought his own barbershop, cut my hair on Tuesday.

I left Oklahoma City Wednesday evening and rolled into Dallas during rush hour Thursday after stops in Davis, the home of Turner Falls; Gene Autry (yes, that’s the name of the town but the museum was closed); Lake Murray State Park in Ardmore; and the Chickasaw Culture Center in Sulphur. All of these towns are in Oklahoma, by the way, so by the time I left Ray Roberts Lake State Park in Sanger, TX, I was ready to put the 50+ miles to Dallas behind me.

I was up early for breakfast Friday but despite plans to explore, I never made it out of the hotel room. I felt a nap coming on and decided to flow with it instead of fighting like I usually do and ended up sleeping the afternoon and evening away. Rested, I was up early Saturday, had breakfast, grabbed my cameras and headed out to explore Dallas. I roamed around downtown, parked and took a few pictures. I then just drove around seeing what I could see before having lunch then heading back to the hotel.

Now, back to Sunday. I left the hotel shortly after 8 a.m. heading to the 9 a.m. service at The Potter’s House, which is in north Dallas. By the time I got there, it was 9:08 and the main parking lot was FULL! We stragglers were lined up to park in the overflow lot across the street and from where I sat, it looked like it’d be another hour before I even made it to the sanctuary. But I creeped toward the U-turn nonetheless, until, that is, I spotted what turned out to be Mountain Creek Lake up ahead. I exited the parking line, headed for the mile-long bridge and found myself in Grand Prairie, TX. I stopped at Walgreens, bought a cup of cappuccino and began plotting my next move.

Back at the car, I saw a sister at the Red Box and asked her about other churches in the area. Initially, she directed me to a Catholic church there in Grand Prairie then to Friendship West Baptist Church in Dallas. According to her, Friendship West was a big church, too, but not quite as big as The Potter’s House. On my way there, I saw a billboard for Faith Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church and for reasons I can’t explain, I pointed my GPS to it instead. When I arrived a few minutes later, I parked directly in front of the church, was greeted with hugs when I entered and instead of sitting away from folks as I typically do, I chose this time to sit next to Joy, a sister who was sitting alone at the end of the pew.

As is in most churches, visitors were invited to introduce themselves and instead of remaining cloaked in anonymity, I actually took the microphone, introduced myself and shared about my road trip. Afterwards, the pastor himself left the pulpit to greet each of us individually. He added that he would be praying for my protection and safe travels. Then, those who didn’t have a Bible for the responsive reading had but to raise their hand to receive one as a gift. The responsive reading was from Matthew 6:25-33, which spoke directly to that “run out [of resources] mentalityā€¯ I was thinking about during the drive from Sanger to Dallas Thursday. After service, Joy and I chatted briefly, exchanged phone numbers and email addresses. She texted me later about getting together for lunch before I leave Dallas. After church, I went to Mountain Creek Lake Park where I took pictures and basked in the sun and breeze off the lake.

I then stopped by a clothing store and chatted it up with a couple of women–one Black, the other white. The significance of this is that for decades, I harbored deep distrust and an intense dislike for whites because of the terror they inflicted upon my family during Daddy’s illness and subsequent death over thirty years ago. I started resolving those feelings a few years ago and can say that I’m finally free of them and no longer paint all whites with the same brush.

Sitting in Dallas traffic later (turns out there was a terrible accident and the police had blocked 3 of the 4 lanes), I had the opportunity to reflect on many things, one of which is how much I really am like Mama. She never met a stranger, and I’m beginning to see that more and more in myself. We had our challenges when I was growing up, before and especially after Daddy died, but having become the woman that I am and am still becoming, I have to thank her for being who she is and for who she helped me become.

I don’t recall any conversations with her about being strong, about not giving up, about being self-sufficient and independent but she instilled those qualities in us nonetheless. My sisters and I joke sometimes about “doing the Sarah” when our kids have pushed us too far but it’s also true that it’s the Sarah in us who helped us become who we are. I have to also thank Mama and Daddy for teaching us not to listen to naysayers and my big sisters for loving and taking care of us the way they did all those years ago. It is my wish now that I can give to them what they gave me all those years ago.

Distracted….or not?

As many of you know, I began my cross-country road trip about two weeks ago. When I decided to make the trip, I intended it to be a “voyage of discovery”, not so much about discovering who I am but more about opening myself up to and discovering the what and where of my higher purpose. To that end, I collected various personal development audiobooks that I would listen to during drive time along with course work that I’d work on during down time. I even replaced my car’s stereo system with one that boasted Bluetooth and MP3 capability so I wouldn’t need to pack the actual CDs. Yes, I was ready and about to be on my way to my higher calling.

Some of you didn’t become aware of my plans until several days before my departure while others had been aware of them from the moment I began toying with the idea and it’s been the latter group that brought me to the realization over the past few days that something is missing. I’ve been on the road for almost two weeks now, and it’s been a blast! I’m getting a kick out of visiting new places, sightseeing, taking pictures and sharing them with family and friends. But by day’s end, I’m tired and all I want to do is “shut it down” for the day.

It’s often said, ask the question and God will provide the answer. Well, several of you have often asked me how it feels to be doing what I’m doing and a few have even suggested that I blog my thoughts, feelings and discoveries along the way. And again, it’s the latter group that made me realize that something is indeed missing. So, today I discovered what’s missing as I sat here in Midwest City, Oklahoma listening to this morning’s broadcast of Becoming Who I AM. Today’s topic was ‘What’s Distracting You?’ In her post about the show, co-host Cassandra-Nkem Nwosu went on to ask, “What’s keeping you connected to everything but your higher self? Do you find that when you’re distracted you tend to put off what you should be doing?”

While visiting new places, sightseeing and taking pictures are integral parts of my trip, I’m also supposed to be doing some growth work. Am I? No, at least not in the way I intended. Why not? Because I’m distracted. I find myself doing everything but what I’m supposed to be doing when I do manage some down time. Instead of listening to an audiobook, I’ll sit there literally forcing myself to watch TV even though I clearly don’t feel it. Then the next thing I know, I’m asleep. And interestingly enough, I’ve journaled only once since I’ve been on the road where before it was a weekly, if not daily, activity.

The next morning, I take a few moments to thank God for the new day and for this new life. I then ask that He continues to guide me along His perfect path, read Joyce Meyers’ ‘Promises for Your Everyday Life – a Daily Devotional’, grab some breakfast, and then I’m off to my next adventure.

As I type this, it occurs to me that perhaps I am on schedule and that this morning’s show was God’s way of alerting me that it’s time for me to take my next step. That instead of forcing myself to watch TV, I should spend the time reading, writing or completing the coursework I started months ago. So, instead of berating myself for what I haven’t done, I’ll say, “I got the message, God, and thank you for your continued guidance.”