Today was one of the first days that we stopped acting like evacuees, trying to live our old home life in the confines of a hotel. We chose instead to get out, take in the city, and enjoy a new museum in the area. Driving up to the hotel, we all observed that it wasn’t very large for its alleged content, and though I was curious, I had my doubts.
The museum’s artifacts were indeed limited, but we were able to meet two of the kindest people we’ve seen here—the curator and the director. With an empty museum other than our family, they walked us around and began to share the rich history of the people and artifacts that were there. In one section there was a wall of 90+ year olds who had given to the museum their time, their articles, and their stories. As the director began to share the stories, I felt as if I knew those people, and felt as if I were speaking with an old friend about them. All that we were missing was an old front porch, two rockers, and a glass of “sweet tea,” as those east of the Mississippi would call it.
More than her stories, what intrigued me were her heart and her passion as she shared the most simple, yet captivating anecdotes about several of the wall portraits. It was obvious how much these simple old folk, in a delightedly old country way, had left imprints on her and on the world around them. To see their pictures, I saw no obvious signs of fortune or fame. In fact, much to the contrary, I saw faces marred with hardship and pain, eyes that knew tears of joy and of sadness.
As we left the museum, I pondered what I saw with the usual amount of contemplation. What does it mean, Lord? One thing’s for sure: in our temporary space, I have time to think. In fact, I’ve stepped away and done more thinking in the last week than my usual busy-ness has afforded me in a very long time. I’m thinking about our plans before the hurricane and how one day’s devastation has changed so many plans and priorities. Before we left, I had notes in my planner to mail checks to Schlitterbaun in Galveston and the Johnson Space Center in Clear Lake. Somehow, I don’t think those plans are as important to the people advertising those events anymore.
I’m also thinking about how excited, yet wary, I am about purchasing a new stove and television. Neither of these purchases has a thing to do with the storm. Ironically enough, before we left the area, we were planning to use the weekend to replace the stove with the oven that has gone out now for the second time in 2 months, and the 20-year-old television. Now with a fence to repair, I’m sorting through what are priorities and what are the luxuries in my own mind.
I’m thinking about the fond memories of that television. It was one of my first purchases upon moving to Texas after college. The television, along with one of the now-faded sofas and a brass bed that is falling apart, are the last testimonials of my first taste of true independence, my “all grown up” memorials.
What I’m thinking most of all following my time at the museum is about my own testimonial. What imprints am I leaving? Did I make this life better for anyone? Whose heart warms when they speak of me? I know a number of neighbors who are obsessed with their homes—replacements, repairs, and resell values. It’s easy for me to belittle their obsession: I lost pieces of a fence. But if there’s anything that I do see in mulling over my trip to the museum, it’s that my life, ultimately, needs to boil down to more than the right paint colors, the perfect garden, and a completely golden image. Polishing my prince and princesses is very important, but it’s not the most important thing. What was my love walk while I was here?
The other day, a lady on our same hotel floor stood talking on her cell phone. In tears, she told the person on the other end, “No one cares about me.” I had a cartoon-like moment, with an angel on one side and a devilish imp on the other. Go ask her if you can help, said the angel. The imp said, she might tell you it’s not your business. She might be off her meds. She might ask you for something you don’t have. The devil had a more convincing argument, and I left someone else to go and comfort her instead–probably a mistake, I now realize. Lord, with your help and discernment, help me to love.