On a recent trip to Washington, D.C., I had just enough time in a hectic day to take an Uber ride over to one of my favorite places, the Smithsonian. The museum is so immense; it is not just one building, but several. I had it in my mind to see the Arts and Industry Building. I should have checked, as two minutes after the Uber dropped me off I was told to not bother walking any further because the beautiful building is currently closed for renovation. The day was exceptionally hot and humid.
I was not too pleased with myself! I had wasted time, I was completely frazzled, and I missed out on seeing something I had set my heart on. As I was about to summon another Uber, I noticed a little path lined on both sides with beautiful plants, many of which were in full flower.
There were no gates, no guards and no tourists! I determined there must be a mistake. There were swarms of class trips all around me, food trucks on the streets, music banging and blaring from musicians and here, in front of me, a place of incredible peace.
What’s the Worst That Could Happen?
Asking myself, “What’s the worst that can happen?” I started along the path. The plants became more exotic and beautiful. The path led to a Chinese Moon Gate with another garden, then to a beautiful urn and fountains, more incredibly exotic plants and, finally, tables and chairs in the shadows of trees.
Amazingly, I was alone. The tranquil beauty of the gardens overwhelmed me. As I sat there, a couple in their mid-40s came into the garden with their 10-year-old girl. They were friendly and told me they were Texans. They said they were taking a special little vacation before he was going back to Afghanistan for re-deployment. His wife asked me if I would take their picture near a gorgeous and unusual plant. Of course, I would. I took several.
At that moment, I realized we were supposed to meet and to share a few minutes together. “What brings you to Washington, D.C.?” I was asked. I told them. I gave them my card. “I should know you,” said his wife. “You must be famous!”
I looked at her husband. To my mind, he was a hero; he was famous. What had he seen? What were the heroic journeys he had taken? I didn’t ask, but I realized he was probably a fairly high-ranking officer, being as we were just a few miles from the Pentagon. She was every bit a hero as well. A brave woman who faced life’s uncertainties. She did so with love and kindness.
We said our goodbyes. After they had left, I sat there in the garden feeling very much at peace. I said a silent prayer hoping for his safety and speedy return. I thanked God for the precious moment.
The garden around me was called the Mary Livingston Ripley Garden. Mrs. Ripley founded the Women’s Committee of the Smithsonian Associates in 1966, and she proposed the garden to be a quiet oasis. It was just that. I needed that moment of calm in my sometimes-over-scheduled life. The couple and their daughter needed a place of peace most probably before they had to say their goodbyes.
It is not about the garden, my friends; it is about life and anxiety. How often do we all ignore the little treasures placed before us? How many of us are tentative about taking new paths? Perhaps the “paths” we ignore are an unread book, a walk through a neighborhood other than yours, the opportunity to say hello to a stranger, or just getting off the highway and taking a local road instead of the shortest, fastest or most useful of freeways. Some of the best things in our lives may be waiting just around the corner. Sometimes what you’re looking for comes when you’re not looking at all.
So, go ahead and take those few extra steps, step outside of the routine. A beautiful garden may be there, just waiting for you. There have always been adventures just around the corner, and the good news is the world is still full of corners.