Monday, November 29, 2010

A Day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our Beneficent Father who Dwelleth in the Heavens

November is rapidly coming to an end and with it my time in service as a ranger at the National Mall in Washington DC. I have officially entered into my final two weeks in service. It is very strange to think that I will be leaving so soon! Many people have asked me to tell them if anything further happens in regard to the permanent positions here on the mall. Well… I don’t have much to tell. I did finally receive a notice of results which gave me my rating for the position. I did well, but it remains to be seen if I did well enough. And nothing further has been done with the position since then. The supervisors have yet to receive a list of names, so I have no idea if I even have a chance. I will most likely not know until after congress decides to pass a budget as, at present, it is really not possible to hire any new positions without knowing how much money is actually going to be available. So once congress decides to do something, things will move forward once again. Until then I will be unemployed as of two weeks from today.

It would be easy to grow discouraged and lose hope, but I am fighting very strongly to not only not let myself do so, but also to focus on the many things that I do have to be thankful for. And there are no shortage of those! I am blessed indeed and have come to see that very clearly in recent days. I have a splendid job that has allowed me to do some incredible things here in Washington, have been given an excellent place to live, have an amazingly supportive and loving family, and a girl with whom I am truly blessed to share my heart, just to name a few!

Appropriately this last week marked a celebration of Thanksgiving, a time of looking to Almighty God in recognition for the blessings and gifts He has lavished upon us. That tradition began during the Civil War, during a time where things looked bleak indeed, but in which President Lincoln called the nation to rise above that immediate perspective and to look upon the world on a higher plane.

On October 3, 1863 he issued the following proclamation…

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity…peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict.
No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.

-Abraham Lincoln,  October 3, 1863

This first celebration of Thanksgiving was followed in consecutive years by a further commitment to the same. Thus we all spent this past Thursday taking part in this celebration.

These last two weeks since last I wrote have been filled with moments of great blessing, not the least of which was spending Thanksgiving Day up at the ranch, sharing dinner with 14 other people gathered around a common table. Amongst the many other moments I could write about, a few stand out above the rest.

Today was the last bike tour, not only for me, but for the entire season. Because another ranger had to back out I was able to step in and take this final tour, a tour about Haunted History, or more simply put, ghost stories. It was great fun. I had no idea there were so many fun stories here in Washington concerning spirits, specters, and ghosts. Included amongst them are the ghost of the murdered son of Francis Scott Key warning Secretary of State Seward of an impending assassination attempt, Abigail Adams doing laundry in the East Room of the White House, Winston Churchill walking naked from the bathroom to his bedroom in the White House and encountering Lincoln standing by the fireplace, and a Demon Cat that appears at the capitol shortly before a national tragedy.

On Friday, November 19 I gave my final special program, a dual presentation  with another ranger in which I portrayed a Union soldier who had borne witness to both the Battle of Gettysburg and the
dedication of the National Cemetery. I spoke of many things over the course of the program, but by far the most moving for me was when I actually gave the Gettysburg Address, speaking the same 272 words that Lincoln spoke 147 years before on that very day with the words inscribed behind me on his memorial. Twice when I was finished I was greeted with rousing applause from the audience.

Last Wednesday I journeyed to Philadelphia with Alison for a day filled with potential for unknown adventure. We went with little agenda, deciding to let events take their course as the day unfolded before us.
And unfold it did! We went on a tour of Independence Hall followed by a visit to the house where Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence, and stopped by Christ Church on the way to an excellent hole in the wall joint called Nick’s Roast Beef where we ate lunch (a Philly Cheese Steak for Alison and a Philly-not-cheese-steak for me). We only got about halfway through lunch though, before realizing it was later than we thought and having to frantically pack up and run to barely make it on a special tour of the Todd and Bishop White houses (which only ten people get to visit each day).

By random chance that morning Alison had read that the Franklin Institute was free on the third Wednesday of the month, which just so happened to be the day we were in Philly. So we asked at the visitor center, but no one, not the rangers or anyone else, knew about it. By calling the institute we eventually confirmed that, indeed, it was open late that night and had free admission. Not only that, but we also found out that just down the road was the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the stairs of which are featured as the culmination of the famous run in “Rocky.” Well that was far too much of a temptation so we took a bus down to the museum, and after finishing our sandwiches from lunch along with a curious squirrel we participated in the obligatory reenactment of the running up the stairs scene and watched the sun setting overlooking the city. After a brief stop by the Rodin museum we headed over to the Franklin Institute. Contained therein we found a planetarium, a special 3D movie about mummies, a hands on exhibit about trains, a huge model of a human heart you could walk through, and a special exhibit about electricity (appropriate don’t you think?) in which you could shock each other, which we naturally had to do repeatedly.
Earlier in the day I had made a reservation at City Tavern, which we barely made by running to the tavern after the bus dropped us back off by the visitor center. We then proceeded to enjoy a lovely dinner by candlelight in the “most genteel tavern in America” as John Adams put it.  Not bad for a day of random adventure!

Sometimes when we can’t see the way ahead, the best course of action is to embrace the mysterious unknown and to find joy in the journey itself, for it is often the journey and not the destination that brings true meaning and significance into our lives.

Living always in dangerous wonder

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