Todd and Brittany, who looked like they were in their early 30’s were in the hotel lobby, talking to the concierge about Bed and Breakfast possibilities near or in Albuquerque. She was a wispy blonde with her hair held back with a scarf. Todd, thin, handsome, and smiling, was in a wheelchair.
“We were looking for something small and romantic, maybe with a fireplace in the room,” she said.
“Don’t think I can help you”, the concierge said. “That area is a puzzle I can’t put together.
While I was sitting in the rear of the room, there were four people waiting for someone in the front lobby. Joseph Rivera was one of the four, but not paying much attention until he noticed that half of Todd’s leg was missing,
“Thank you for your service to the country.” He said it with a level of comfort I wish we all had. “I live out there and know that area pretty well. There are a couple of places that are probably exactly what you want.” He went on to describe each place.
Brittany seemed particularly excited about one of them. Rivera added, “It would be an honor for me to cover the cost of the room. The least I can do.”
Brittany, in tears, accepted his generous offer. (Which also included a bottle of wine from his wine cellar.) They continued to talk, I continued to listen. Todd had been in the service for sixteen years. As an infantry Staff Sergeant, he was posted to Fairbanks Alaska, which was where he had hoped they (Brittany and four home schooled children), would retire. Then he was sent to Kandahar.
“There were twenty guys ahead of me, my medic and me, and twenty guys in the rear. I stepped on the mine. No one else was hurt, thank God, and I lost half my leg. God works in strange ways, he must have had some plan for me. At least that’s what I feel in my heart. Now I’m in rehab in San Antonio and my whole family lives in the Fisher House. We are blessed.”
These lovely people were authentic. It was not just empty banter. Being a cynic, and not particularly religious, I was moved by Joe’s generosity, but, where I would have been wary of all the God conversation, I found myself wishing I was as sure of what I believe in as they did. And then they held hands and prayed. Although I had introduced myself, I was not part of the prayer circle, but did continue to listen to each of the five prayers.
Each prayer was personal. In every case, along with family and friends, they prayed for the nation and the wisdom of the President. There was no political judgment in their words. And then the best…. “Dear God, you are way cool.” This was how Brittany began her prayer. It was said with the kind of enthusiasm that I had never heard in a conversation with God. The honesty was truly moving. (And you all know it’s not easy to move me). At the end of the prayer, there were more thanks and lots of hugs – Having sat there quietly for quite some time, they included me in the hug part of the program.
From the time Joe inserted himself in the Bread and Breakfast conversation (Oh and they were also going to have a fireplace in their bedroom) until the hugs and goodbyes, it could not have been more than half an hour. Although this well deserved pause in my cynicism was brief -- I didn’t hold hands but I admit I said a little prayer and found the whole event incredibly spiritual. What I’m left with today is concern about all our wounded warriors, and a hope that Joe Rivera, Bless him, is not just one in a million. We’re just sayin’…. Iris