John and his then-partner had planned a trip through Switzerland with me. Instead of flying home from there, I changed my reservation to go to Paris.
Arriving in Paris late on a Sunday afternoon, I took a taxi to my hotel, settled in, and then went for a walk. This was before we Americans carried a bottle of water with us, and I remember one of the first things I noticed was every young person I passed was drinking from one. Still a little intimidated by being in that beautiful city alone, I returned to the hotel and ordered my dinner from room service.
The next morning, I took a taxi to the Louvre. The driver could or would not understand me and dropped me off at the far side, nowhere near the entrance. I finally found my way and entered, feeling very alone.
I purchased my pass and was handed a map which was so confusing that I sat on a bench to study it. A woman about my age spoke to me and asked if this was my first visit. I told her it was, and she replied that it was her first, also. Her husband was ill that day and had stayed at the hotel. She suggested we see the Louvre together.
My new acquaintance and I had a delightful day. She was from Michigan and had been training for her trip by running. I was recovering from a broken leg, but I kept up. We took a break for lunch and spent the rest of the day perusing the treasures. I knew only her first name, and we didn’t exchange addresses. In this day, we would be Facebook friends sharing pictures of our families.
I walked, I listened to the sounds of Paris, I soaked in the beauties of the history, the art, the shopping, the cathedrals, the restaurants, the museums – taking time to embrace the sights in wonderment, still unable to grasp being in this magical city.
John called the third day and said he had finished his business in Switzerland and was coming the next day to treat me to dinner. He kidded me about saving the Eiffel Tower for the evening he was there, but I don’t think he minded being my tour guide.
I cherish the memories of that first trip. Talk about seeing Paris on foot, I did, and am grateful that I was able to see it “my way.” I explored, meditated, made mistakes in ordering food, got lost, scurried through exhibits uninteresting to me and lingered for a long time over the ones I loved.
The Paris I remember was a friendly one, filled with beauty. I mourn the lives lost this week, the attacks that leave people feeling vulnerable and uneasy. It is impossible to comprehend the effect of this impact on our world, the little we can do to help. I see the ways good people try to reflect the fact that we care. This is apparent through the profile pictures changed on Facebook and comments on social media.
I must not lose my trust that good will win over evil, but at what cost we do not know; I believe that going on with our lives is important, because I don’t want to let anyone be powerful enough destroy my joy in each day; I will not question or criticize decisions of government officials, because they have access to information that we do not have; I know that containing the terrorist movement is larger than any one man can control, it will take not a village but all nations; I will look carefully at our candidates for President of the United States as that election is more important than ever – who will we put our hope in to step forward and be brave in decisions that are bound to be heartbreaking to make? This goes far beyond petty comments as to religion and emotions, it is to the very existence of our nation and world. Join with me in saying a prayer for strength, let us be good neighbors to one another and keep our eyes toward the goal of peace, which begins within each of our hearts.