Free at Last

I am in Washington DC for the Inauguration of Barack Obama. The atmosphere is jubilant, thoughtful, kind, and well-mannered.

I had two very powerful moments today. Please know, that in relating this stories, I don’t mean to sound patronizing.

Friends and I were walking through the Crystal City Marriott making our way to the DC Metro station on our way into the city. Two black men were walking along beside me, going through their checklist of what they needed for the trip into town. “Should I go back to my room and get my long coat? We are coming back in a couple of hours.”

I chimed in, as you all know I tend to do, “You’re dressed warm enough until the sun goes down. You don’t need a long coat now. But, let me ask you, do you have your camera?”

“You better believe it!” was the cheerful reply. We are laughing and grinning and walking….

“OK, then I can let you go,” I remarked with a laugh (thinking you bet, they needed MYworldly advice.

One of them shot back, with a laugh and a smile: “FREE AT LAST!”

I let out a whoop, so did they, and we slapped each other on the shoulders, hooting our way into the station.

“I got ya there, right?” he asked, beaming.

Oh yes, and I’d bet you’ve waited a lifetime to say that.

After 389 years, it’s about time.

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Second moment for serious contemplation, and one that moved me to tears…

We were visiting our friends office building in DC and had to check in with the security desk. A very polite, soft spoken, black man took our ID’s, signed us in, and let us enter. He expressed regret he had to be at work today, Martin Luther King Day and tomorrow, during the Inauguration events, but was glad to be inside where it was warm and not out running around in the crowds with us.

When we returned our badges to him, I thanked him, and said, “You have a good day tomorrow.”

Wistfully, almost under his breath, he replied, “It’s going to be the most important day of my life.” It stopped me in my tracks. This was more than a polite exchange and I knew it.

I looked him in the eye, and softly said to him, “Its a great, great day for YOU, for ALL of us, and for this country.”

He touched his lips to his fingers, gently blew me a kiss, and said, “I love you.”

I left the building in tears.

Tomorrow is a very big day.