So yesterday, I found myself sitting in a Horn and Hardat’s automat on 42nd street. The shiny chrome and glass wall that held back hundreds of delectable treats and snacks mesmerized me as always. My brother Tom and I picked out our favorites; PB&J with chocolate milk for him; a tuna salad sandwich with a Kosher Dill for me.
Crooners like Sammy Davis Jr and Bing Crosby sang Christmas songs to us through the old box speakers mounted in the corners. They could only partially mask the sound of the bustling symphony of New York taxis and buses and people, so many people, shuffling by outside.
Our wonderful Aunt Kay just announced that she had enough spare change to buy one cup of sweet butterscotch pudding to share, when suddenly…
“Pat! Estas bien?”
Yesenia’s soothing voice and warm touch pulled me back to the McDonalds in zone 4 where we shared the moment over a couple of burgers and cokes. Now, the New York shuffle was being performed by hundreds of Guatemalan workers and visitors making their way to the bus station across the street.
The taxis were white, but definitely could hold their own against their yellow counterparts in Manhattan. The buses are a little noisy here and spew too much smoke, similar to the blue line of 1970s New York. This particular McDonalds has a terminal design, dominated by large common seating areas and nary a private booth. It may have been that similarity to the old automats that sparked my little daydream. But wait! Is that….? Yup! It was more likely the scratchy crooning of Sammy and Bing still wafting from the ceiling that sent me back. The likes of Burl Ives and Perry Como followed them up and helped keep my heart warm and fuzzy for the rest of the meal with Yesenia.
Well, my brother lives 2,000 miles away now. Aunt Kay passed away in 2005, many years after the last Horn and Hardat’s closed their doors in Times Square. But what a gift those few seconds were! My little trip down Memory Lane put a smile on me that lasted through the night; but now I sit here wondering if it was just a gift, or was it something more?
This morning, I woke up from a dream in which I recited a poem called “City Wonder”. I wrote this poem back in 1979. It was the thoughts of someone watching a child sitting on an inner-city stoop (the steps in front of a building entrance for those of you not from the New York area!).
The last line of each stanza had to do with his thoughts. It started with “a child sits on the stoop just thinking”; progressed to “I wonder what he thinks” and ends with “who cares what he thinks?” It was a plea to talk to and work with children who saw the problems around them and had ideas and dreams. It wasn’t one of my better works. Until this morning, I had pretty much forgotten about it.
When it comes to dreams and visions, I am a little unclear about how a good Christian is supposed to react; but I believe that God uses these things to reassure me at times. Way before I even thought about visiting Guatemala, I had two recurring dreams.
One involved a conversation in an unfamiliar, dark location. In the dream, I kept thinking that I had to be very, very careful what I said because the person I was speaking to did not understand my English. There was an interpreter, but I couldn’t tell exactly how he was translating what I said.
Years later, I met Jorge in San Lucas Toliman. He wound up being the best man at my wedding last year; but it wasn’t until the fateful night I explained my feelings for Yesenia to my future father-in-law in the poorly-lit Ciudad de Refugio Church, that I realized Jorge was the translator in this recurring dream. That Deja-vu moment is part of my Guatemala miracle and helped reassure me that this is all part of God’s plan.
The second dream was a simple moment driving down the Garden State Parkway in my Chevy Impala. This was something I did alone for tens-of-thousands of miles over the years. But in this dream, there was someone curled up asleep in the passenger seat and I just knew, “this is the one.” In the autumn of 2012, I lived that quiet moment on the Parkway with Yesenia. The next day, I could call her my fiancé.
Yesenia and I face many tough decisions in our very-near future. These decisions regard both our personal and professional lives. One of the biggest decisions is whether we feel called more to work in the mountains of Toliman or in the city of Guatemala.
We have been praying hard on this. Right now, the city has the inside track as there is genuine history for Yesenia and her family in many of these neighborhoods. But life will be significantly more difficult and way scarier if we decide to plant roots in the city neighborhoods where we work. Thus, it is proving difficult to commit.
This morning I wonder if God reminded me of a message I wrote so long ago for a reason? Did He rekindle the memory of delightfully joyful times spent in the midst of a dangerous, polluted and scarred 1970s New York to reassure me?
Is He saying that Yesenia and I will be perfectly fine walking a path in the 21st century Guatemala City? Even before yesterday’s moment, I told people that knowing the vibrant New York City of today gives me great hope for the future of my newly adopted home. So did God just verify that this is where we are supposed to be?
Well, I am still woefully human and I remain overwhelmed at the thought. I definitely feel the need to continue praying over this all. Since you’re reading this now, I ask you to pray for us, too. God’s will be done… and we shall see how future blogs describe this time in our lives.
“Don’t worry about anything. Pray about everything…. “ (Paul, in Philippians 4:6)