People buzzed about the book table like bees around a hive. From where I sat, near the side door, it looked like the bizarre was a huge success.
I watched folks walking by, checking out table after table of everything from handcrafted walking sticks, jewelry and cards to homemade bakery goods, sloppy-joes and ice cream bars.
Most folks found something to buy—that they didn’t need—usually food.
I could see the flat screen TV mounted on a wall behind the bakery tables. It was clear across the room, but I could tell it was showing the beginnings of the Presidential Inauguration.
Somebody stopped by and bought a book, we chatted a bit, and I tried to stay focused but my eyes kept wandering over to the television set.
Laughter erupted and music started playing and all at once a line of people marched in dressed like, well, picture The Hee-Haw band. Bib overalls and bare feet, a metal garbage can and a moonshine jug were just a few of the instruments that made up the rag-tag Whispering Pines Fun Band.
They paraded along singing and smiling, having a great time, acting plumb stupid.
The lady next to me had two tables filled with all kinds of jewelry and an assortment of beautiful stones; one of which, she said, “Keeps people from being crabby.” She gave me one.
A hundred bobbing heads milled about between me and the TV, but I could see it was getting close for the inauguration to begin.
Every now and then the booming voice of the park manager would echo from every speaker, one was directly over my head. He’d say stuff like: “Hurry and get your tickets our next drawing’s in five minutes.” Or… “Stop by our sponsor’s booth in the next ten minutes and get…” Or like a game show host, “The next person who brings me a finger nail clippers wins a…”
A lady stopped in front of my table and the booming game show voice didn’t seem to bother her a bit. She read the scrolling Power Point presentation for one of my books. When I spoke, she didn’t seem to notice at first, but then she motioned with her hands telling me she was deaf. We communicated with what little sign language I had. She typed her name into her phone and held it out, motioning for me to speak into it.
I did. It wrote what I said. We chatted back and forth like that for a good little bit.
After she left, I could see the inauguration was getting close, real close, President Trump was on the screen.
Someone else was talking to me, I tried to pay attention, really, I did, but my eyes kept wandering back to that screen. Finally, they noticed my divided attention and looked toward the screen. “You think he’ll do us any good?”
I just smiled and said, “I’ve been praying he would.”
I left the book table unattended and made my way to a chair near the bakery tables. The television volume was on, but with all the chatter it was hard to make out what was being said. Folks continued buying and selling, talking and laughing and doing what they’d come to do—have fun.
A moment later president Trump stood with his left hand on two Bibles; one given to him by his mother and the other had belonged to Abraham Lincoln.
The chatter quieted, a gentle rain started to fall in Washington DC and he uttered The Oath of Presidents to be:
A record number of prayers were prayed.
As the National Anthem was played the folks continued to mingle, eat and drink, but a remnant gathered; huddled in a ragged sort of horse shoe, around the front of the bakery tables. We stood, hats off, hands over our heart and sixteen year old, Jackie Evancho, brought grown men and war heroes to tears.
The president began his Inaugural Address, one of the shortest ever…during which time our game show host grabbed the microphone which sat fifteen feet to the left of the TV and announced something like basement bottom dollar brownies and sloppy-joes being half off.
At first that got under my skin and respect for the man hit bottom dollar, but then, something happened.
My eyes bounced back and forth between two men behind a microphone; The President of the United States and the game show host.
As I looked him in the eye, he nodded and lifted a little smile.
I didn’t want to smile. The badder angels urged me to shout, “Turn off the mic sit down and shut up.” But, better angels bit my tongue. And before I had time to get all riled up in my own self-righteousness, I heard the President, quote Psalm 133:1 "How good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity.”
I was glad he used the translation that says, “God’s people” instead of “brethren” for that would’ve set off a firestorm of its own.
Then, The President said it was time to remember what soldiers will never forget, “we all bleed the same red blood” and all of us share the same night sky and are "infused with the breath of life by the same almighty Creator"
It gave me pause.
I remembered my new found friend, how the best communication I’d had all day was with her who was deaf and mute. I only half listened to everyone else, but with her, of necessity, I paid attention.
Perhaps, if all the world were deaf and mute, we’d pay attention more and communicate better.
I looked at the man who moments before had irritated me so, and paid attention, put myself in his shoes.
I thought of how he had a job to do, and he was doing it well. He had an agenda to follow and a responsibility to keep the event rolling, to entertain folks—be the game show host.
To his credit he said he had waited until “after the speech” referring to The Oath, but at that very moment, he was interrupting the Inaugural Address of the President…must not have been paying attention.
Nevertheless, in that moment of shoe swapping, of paying attention, my disgust lifted and peace settled.
I nodded back and returned the smile.
And just like that, all the folks around me talking and laughing and shuffling about were no longer noisy distractions, with irritating differences, but intriguingly unique, brothers and sisters infused with the breath of life by the same almighty Creator.