Today was a busy day on a very quick business trip. I had flown in last night to Philadelphia and made my way over to King of Prussia, Pennsylvania where my one night hotel was for the following day’s conference. I was up early, read my devotional, grabbed breakfast and was on time at the seminar site. The all day conference was very educational and worthwhile.
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I know you know this, but conferences can be a real crap shoot. I have been to some really suckie time sponges that weren’t worth the glossy paper the summaries were printed on. In fact, I could have done just as well just by reading their promotional brochures. And then others are pseudo worthwhile. And few others are well worth your time – along with the travel expenditures.
I have my own personal perspective on seminars and conferences. I believe that you can always find SOME kind of gold nugget to take back with you. It might be an idea, a concept, the way something is done. And sometimes it doesn’t necessarily come from the conference. It might be because you were out of your box; doing something different. But there is always a take home prize if you open your eyes enough to find it.
Anyway, conferences are like a box of chocolates…..
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The conference ended early and I decided to turn to one of my past actions. You see, many years ago in a past job I used to travel 3 to 4 weeks out of the month. I flew all over the place for business. But I rarely saw much past the airports and hotels. However, whenever a job was finished early, or I had spare time, I really went out of my way to “see the sights”. I remember one time I had a half day available that I killed in south Florida on an airboat Everglades tour. It was very cool and I have never been back so I am glad I took the opportunity to get out and see stuff while I was there rather than rest up in a boring old hotel room.
So today with the conference finishing at 3:30pm I had a bit of time to kill before my 9:30pm flight. So I headed to the Valley Forge National Park. If you have never been there you must go. What a beautiful place dripping with history. I enjoyed my own private showing of their 18 minute movie in the theater building. And, because I was alone, I was able to slowly make my way through the Visitor’s Center and read every single little historical placard and fact – something that drives my wife and kids crazy any time we go to museums or such.
While in the Visitor’s Center right before they closed at 5pm, there were 3 very obviously Muslim men along with 2 completely clothed ladies with 3 children. The group piqued my interest and I observed them carefully from a distance. The men were heavily bearded, had the traditional skull caps on, and wore flowing robes. They were not unlike some of the pictures we have seen lately of those who have been attacking our country. The 5pm closing time gave me an excuse to depart the building and begin my outside self guided tour.
If you have never been to Valley Forge National Park, I highly encourage you to go. It is a beautiful expanse of 3400 acres devoted to retaining the feel of what General Washington’s encampment there the winter of 1777 was. The car tour takes you to many highlights throughout the park and all over there were people jogging, couples walking, deer eating the grass and staring, and tourists snapping pictures.
As I went from point of interest to point of interest, I would run into the same folks again and again. We would smile and say “hi”. I even offered to take a picture of a couple of work colleagues in front of the huge arch in the park. And I was able to snap some very grainy but very close pictures of the over tamed deer in the park. At one point I was able to roll my rental car up, roll my window down and “talk” to the deer 8 feet away just staring at me. They obviously weren’t Kentucky deer because they #1) run away and #2) get shot.
I was lollygagging and needed to speed up my self guided tour so I could make it to PHL for my late flight. So I told myself that General Washington’s headquarters house would be my last out of the car stop. I parked and walked down the gently sloped hill to the several buildings down by the creek. Wanting General Washington’s house to be last, I proceeded clockwise around the walking path – first with the General’s security staff huts. These were the first original Secret Service. The to the very nice statue of George. His family even said that this statue, which is a replica of one that stands in the Virginia Capital, is the most representative and lifelike one of him. It was here I said a prayer of thanks and for continued guidance for our country. I believe our country is very special because of the religious freedom which was one of the things being sought. This country has very spiritual roots and we need to continue to acknowledge them, not deny them or water them down.
I continued on to some support barns and out buildings. When I arrived in front of General Washington’s headquarters house I had a deep sense of feeling; like I was brushing history. As I stood on the front porch steps, I presumed General Washington probably did something similar about 233 years ago. I touched the stone walls as he might have and scanned the creek laid out in front of me. I circumnavigated the house and imagined all the activity back then.
I cut away from the concrete walkway to meander across the grass to the train station while watching the nearby mother doe and her two fawns grazing. And I saw one of the Muslim men carrying a boy walking towards me. I smiled as he approached and said “Good afternoon”. Accent-less, he responded likewise and asked if I knew which house was General Washington’s. I pointed behind me and then started talking and walking that way with him. It was completely out of my comfort zone. However, I had a different feeling than I had at the Visitor Center. This was my opportunity to learn. To represent. To act upon a quote I had heard Monday from Max Lucado – “If you have the chance to build a bridge, build it. If you have the chance to tear down a wall, take it.”
So I learned that his name was “Mohammed” and he was visiting from Illinois. He was well groomed and well spoken. He had not been to Valley Forge before and was visiting on his way back from Washington D.C where his local priest had been meeting and who was a part of the group I saw earlier. I did find it peculiar that he used the term priest. He was carrying his priest’s child who was a young boy of about 2 years old. They were taking in the old homes of the self guided tour like I was, as well as letting the kids get views of the deer, squirrels and birds in the park.
After a few more nice words, I left them to enjoy the scenery and began my walk back to the rental car. During that walk, I came across the “priest” in the group who was with his other two young boys. I said hi and introduced myself saying that I had met his friend and his son over by George Washinton’s headquarters. His name, too, was Mohammed and I said hi to his two young boys and then continued on up the hill to the parking lot. It was a very different experience and pushed my envelope.
…..Dan at aslowerpace dot net