While we were in Philadelphia Steph and the kids spent some time in the Ben Franklin museum. I found a shaded bench and took a little time to get some work done. While I was working an older gentleman in a suit came over and asked if I would share the bench. “Of course!” I told him and moved all our backpacks and water bottle out of the way so he could sit. He parked his camera bag and cane down next to himself to “give the legs a little rest”. I could tell Enrique was attending a conference as he had his name badge hanging on a lanyard around his neck.
With the end of school near there were TONS of school groups doing their end of the year field trips I guess. Enrique says to me in his beautiful Spanish accent, “you see, there are a few kids in every group who are paying attention…do you see them? They are like little sponges! They are learning what you can never learn in a classroom or a book. Experiencing history, art, culture, engineering and architecture in person is the best way to learn.” I was honestly pretty annoyed with the groups as they were making site seeing difficult and, while I could see the few kids Enrique spoke of, there were many more who saw it as just a free day to goof around.
It turns out Enrique is a retired architect from LA who is attending an architecture conference. He used to travel with his wife, a civil engineer, but “the cancer took her very fast.” They had so much fun traveling together as he would marvel at some archway and she would point out cracks and diagnose their cause. “Now,” he said tapping his heart, “I travel with her here.” He has neuropathy in his feet from his diabetes which makes getting around tougher, “but I am here…and I almost wasn’t here…I just graduated from dialysis!” Enrique has taken a beating it seems, both physically and emotionally, but he was smiling and it was clear he is thankful for each and every day he is alive.
He was very excited about his camera and showed me all its bells and whistles and told me to take a few photos. We made sure to get him in one of the photos since he does not have many pictures of himself. Then he asked about where I was from and I explained our trip and that Steph and the kids were in the museum. His eyes got big and he said, “my friend…this is the best gift you can give your children! No matter what they do when they get older they will be better at it because of this…because of the experiences of travel.” He told a story about how his travels to Teotihuacan in Mexico inspired him to write an architecture paper during his studies at USC that he believes had a lasting effect on his professor. “Someday, your kids will rebel. Its in our nature to rebel. But, this….this gift you give them now….the experiences and the time you are investing with them…it will get them through their rebellion and they will be better people.”
The kids came running over to the bench after their time in the museum and excitedly told me all about the different things that Ben had invented. Between a couple of their stories I snuck in a quick hand shake and goodbye to Enrique and he was gone.
*Note: While I used quotation marks above I did not actually record Enrique’s quotes word for word. But this is what I heard and I believe is what Enrique wanted me to hear. In fact, I believe God orchestrated that meeting. Not that my spirits were low or anything, but my encounter with Enrique definitely lifted my spirits and reminded me to enjoy my family, enjoy my health, enjoy travel, enjoy learning and enjoy every moment of every day.