Guest Post – It Happened in Iowa

My husband Nathan, our two children, and I are in the midst of a 19-day road trip, spending this week on Lake Michigan and heading on to Pennsylvania next week. We stopped at a motel after our first day of driving, and Nathan had a memorable interaction about which he spent the next morning writing on the laptop in the car.

I have been encouraging him to start a blog, but he said I could post this piece he wrote on my blog. So here it is. If you want to hear more from him, send him an e-mail (nathan@cabinoflove.com) and add your voice to mine in begging for a Nathan Bloom blog!

Here it is:

Last night, I was traveling with my family en route to our vacation destination in Michigan. We were driving through Iowa, the sun had set, and the kids were asleep, so Julia and I decided to put on some “easy miles” before stopping for the night.

Just after 11pm, we opted to call it a night and pulled into a Days Inn. As I walked into the hotel lobby, I noticed an elderly couple laboriously exiting a minivan. The receptionist was busy checking in another guest, and the three of us stood wearily in the lobby, waiting silently. The woman stood rigidly by the corner of the front desk, while the man wandered back into the empty lounge. As I waited, the thought occurred to me that it would be a courteous gesture to defer my ‘next-in-line’ status to this couple. Though my wife and children were waiting in the car, I made up my mind that when my turn came, I would let it pass to my elders.

The sleepy atmosphere was suddenly rent by a shockingly loud episode of flatulence coming from the lounge. My resolve wavered a little. After finishing checking in the guests ahead of us, the receptionist called out: “who’s next?” The woman at the corner of the desk glanced back. “Go ahead,” I offered. She immediately placed her enormous purse on the desk and commenced the check-in process.

The short, stoop-shouldered man ambled back from the lounge, and looked up at me. “Whererya from” he queried

“Minnesota”, I replied.

“Whereabouts?”

“Owatonna”

“Oh yeah. . . up on 169” he said.

“No, it’s on I35”

“Oh yeah” he returned vaguely. “I’m from Algona”

“Where are you headed?” I re-orientated the conversation.

“Chicago”, he sturdily responded. “We are going to a booksellers convention.” “A Christian bookseller’s convention,” he quickly clarified.

The woman quickly turned away from the desk and corrected somewhat severely: “It is a Craft Fair this time.” She included some more apparently important details which I didn’t comprehend, and I didn’t ask, not wanting to prolong the correction. She turned back to the receptionist.

“We belong to the Evangelical Free church,” the man volunteered unexpectedly, “What church do you belong to?”

I faltered, unprepared to answer: “The church I attend is not affiliated. . .uh, non-denominational, I guess. . . The church I grew up in was Baptist General Conference, though,” I added, trying to give him something meaningful within his presumed construct.

“Ah Yes,” he replied. “The fighting baptists.” I smiled, understanding his reference to the particularly schismatic history of baptist churches in the USA. “There was a big split in one of the baptist churches in Algona,” he added.

“Yeah,” I responded with detached amusement, “Jesus said: ‘One command I give you- Love one another’, but it seems like that is always the first thing to go out the window!”

The woman suddenly turned back around, and with the austere gaze of a fundamentalist Sunday School teacher, demanded: “But what was his other commandment?”

I fumbled, trying not to be intimidated, mentally re-scanning my words, and Jesus’ words, desperately trying to remember what the second of the one commandment was.

With trepidation, I held my ground: “He said one command.”

“Ye must be born again” She said sharply. “That is the greatest commandment. You can love all you want, but it won’t do you any good!” She continued her stern gaze, and I held my tongue.

She turned back, finished her check-in, and the two left to go to their rooms (I now understand why they had gotten two.)

3 Comments

  1. That was classic! My brother-in-law and I went to the dog park yesterday afternoon and enjoyed having a conversation with an older gentleman from Massachusetts. He was originally from Alabama and grew up during the time of segregation. Our conversation was short because we had to leave, but it was as interesting and powerful as your exchange with this woman. Write more Nathan 🙂

  2. Typical and sad at the same time. Thanks for sharing, Nathan –and Julia.

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