Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tips for Visiting our Nation's Capitol

Having just returned from a wonderful family vacation to DC, I thought I'd share some tips, in no particular order:

1. Avoid driving in DC at all costs. Probably the best thing to do would be to park somewhere in Maryland and arrange to be air-lifted in. I now understand why I've seen so many photos of presidents boarding a helicopter on the White House lawn, but have never seen a photo of one getting into a car.

2. Don't be afraid to ride the Metro. It's cheap, it's clean, and most of the passengers are fellow tourists anyway. So you won't stand out if you look like you don't know what you're doing.

3. Do not visit the monuments in the middle of the day during a summer heat wave. If so, you may end up like one poor couple we met on the Metro. They made this mistake and had to spend several hours at a nearby bar recovering. (We got off the Metro before they did, so I don't know if they managed to make it to their destination.)

4. When visiting the Smithsonian museums, dress like you were going camping in Wisconsin. You know, it's hot during the day, but cold at night, so you wear layers. In DC, it's hot outside, but freezing inside.

5. If your governor is friends with the president, and you once called this governor a liar on a news program, don't be surprised when you are unable to get tickets to the White House.

6. The International Spy Museum does have an exhibit called "Training to Be a Spy". Going through this exhibit, however, does not actually qualify you to be a spy. At least not a competent one.

7. If you are hungry, do not eat at the Spy Cafe. If, however, you don't mind spending $8 for a "snack", go right ahead.

8. The Old Post Office is a great place to visit. It's right next to the IRS building, but don't let that stop you. The tower has spectacular views of the city, even better than the Washington Monument. And the food court on the first floor is great...reasonably priced (at least for DC) and a wide variety of choices. This is esp. important if you have children who think a gourmet meal is a hot dog with ketchup, and you are threatening to stage a hunger strike if you have to eat at one more place where the server asks, "Would you like fries with that?"

9. Be sure to tour the Library of Congress. Seeing one of the few remaining Gutenberg Bibles and the incredible main reading room are well worth it.

10. After touring the Library of Congress, walk down Penn. Ave to Good Stuff and have one of their milkshakes. It will make you forget the DC heat.

11. Most of all, have fun! It's a great place to visit.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

How to Achieve Greatness

As a family, we recently read The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boon. She was without a doubt a great person who did great things. What struck me about her life was that she did not set out to do anything great. Her greatness was achieved one small step at a time, with no grand design on her part. She just did the next right thing, without giving thought to where these steps would lead. One of the first Jews she helped save was a man she and her father had met years earlier, when he was walking his dog. Being naturally friendly, they smiled and commented on his dog, and a friendship was begun. Later, when the Germans invaded and started arresting Jews, their friend came to them for help, which they of course provided. After that, the word spread that the ten Boons were a family who would help, and countless Jews came to them for help. But they did not wake up one morning and say, "Let's save the Jews." They just did what they could for one person, and then did the same for the next person, and the next. This naturally followed from the way they had always lived their lives, heeding Jesus' call to do whatever we can for the "least of these". If World War II had never happened, we would never have heard of Corrie ten Boon, but she would have still been a great person, doing each day what God asked of her.

Despite what Shakespeare said, none of us has greatness thrust upon us. It is achieved one small step at a time, doing whatever it is God has put in front of us to do. And as Jesus promised, when we are faithful with the small things, He will give us great things to do. Our job is to do the small things with love and faith, knowing that these are the great things in His sight.