I took a vacation!

A real vacation! No work, no laptop, I didn’t even take my watch!

Didn’t want to have to take a look at it–which meant I ended up asking hubby and son every few minutes, “What time is it?”

In hind sight, I would have taken my watch, but still…point is I took a vacation.

It was only four days but it was lovely!

The three of us (hubby, son and me) took a bus tour operated by a Chinese tour company (the price was fabulous!) to New York City, Atlantic city and Washington D.C.

On Saturday morning, we left home by about 5:45 am, boarded the bus at 6:15 and drove down to Buffalo. After a short drive we went shopping at an outlet mall.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I’d rather clean the toilet than go shopping! But apparently that’s a major attraction for most people who go down to the States.

We then drove south through New York State and then down through Pensylvania, ending up in a hotel in Newark, New Jersey.

We had supper at a buffet place and my son kept remarking that the people he met in Jersey were so different from the ‘stereotype’.

I asked him what stereotype he was referring to. Jersey Shore! (It’s a silly reality show full of crass people doing ridiculous things with odd accents).

At about 8 am the next morning we were strolling the sidewalks of Times Square.

I hadn’t seen Times Square since I was thirteen! 37 years ago! And that was such a traumatic experience I really didn’t relish seeing it again!

Back then the sidewalks wore a uniform coat of charcoal-coloured soot and the gutters were ankle deep in trash.

My parents had parked the van a few blocks away from Times Square and when we went back we found a dead German shepherd dog lying in front of our vehicle and police officers all around. It was scary.

Luckily they knew our van had nothing to do with the dog fatality, but still… We never wanted to see the big apple again and studiously avoided it.

I do remember the statue of Liberty. Back then they let you go all the way up to the main balcony, on her chest I think. Some people even got to go up to the torch.

This time we ended up taking a water taxi tour, didn’t even get onto Ellis island.

I kept marvelling at how much the city has changed! It’s so much CLEANER!

Quite pleasant and yet over-hyped at the same time.

A few years ago I had lunch with an editor who was originally from New York and was now the head of the Toronto division of the publisher.

She told me that she was really surprised at how lovely Toronto was! She said it was quite like New York without all the negatives! Smaller, more contained, but just as lively! I couldn’t agree more!

The New York harbour reminded me ever so much of Queen’s Quay down at Harbourfront! Same feel to it!

Atlantic city was quite boring, I guess that’s because we don’t gamble.

But one thing interesting happened. We were walking along the boardwalk, with the Atlantic ocean in view. It was freezing!

An older African American fellow was pan handling on the boardwalk. He wore scruffy clothes and he’d clumsily embroidered something like ‘war veteran’ onto the fronts of his shabby grey sweatpants.

The first time he approached us with his hand held out saying he was a war veteran, I just muttered, “Sorry,” and walked by.

Telling a Muslim that you’re a U.S. army war veteran is not a good way to get a donation.

Everyone has their prejudices and I’m no different. When I see American army personnel I cringe inside. And I wonder how many bombs they might have dropped and how many people they might have killed.

I can’t help it.

It’s visceral.

I know not all of them are ruthless. Intellectually I know that, but my heart still can’t help cringing inside.

Mind you I push those feelings aside and try to deal with them nicely anyway, but it’s there. Under the surface, and I’m sure the feeling is vice versa with many people in the way they look at me and other Muslims.

Anyway, as we turned around and came back, he approached us again saying that he was a war veteran and had children, anything we could give would be helpful. Again I said, “Sorry.”

Then he did something interesting. He smiled and said, “Then please pray for me.”

That I did. Immediately. I asked God to have mercy on him and guide him and then a funny thing happened. My son said he wanted to give him something.

We had already walked on. We were almost ready to turn down a street to start heading back to the hotel. My son said he had some change and he’d give him that.

I said, “No. Give him some bills.”

My son said, “I only have a five.”

Both my hubby and I said, “Give him that then.”

So my son went back and gave it to him. He shook his hand and we went on our way, and it occurred to me that maybe God had answered my prayer through my son. God knows best.

Later that night I kept thinking about him, about how difficult it must be to hold out your hand like that to perfect strangers.

My son said something about being afraid he’d use it to buy drugs and I’m sure that fear prevents a lot of people from giving, but really giving is more about intentions, as far as I’m concerned.

I can so easily imagine being in such a desperate situation, and I’m ever so glad that I’m not.

My son told me then that the reason he’d gone back was because he’d said he had children.

I hadn’t heard that. If I had, I would have given him more.

We believe that our provision is written for us. Every morsel we put in our mouths is already counted out, we just have to earn it.

And it was part of that man’s provision that we would encounter each other on a cold March day on the boardwalk of Atlantic city.

May God bless him with guidance and prosperity. Ameen.

It’s late and I’ll talk about Philadelphia next time.