The American Chronicles: The whole of mankind

It was June 30, the beginning of our long-awaited beach vacation with Ed and Christine, friends we have done so with for some dozen years. This year was special because we were traveling together in our travel van and doing an overnight at a campground less than five miles from Virginia Beach before moving on to Emerald Isle, NC. Chris and I were staying in our van. Christine and Ed in a nearby cabin. A beautiful setting. Christine and Chris went on a bike ride, while Ed and I rested in our camp chairs beneath the shade of a stoic oak tree near our camp, our dog Charlie sniffing around and panting in the hot afternoon sun. There came a small Chevy SUV pulling up in the space beside our van.

Out came a family of five Asians—an older man and woman, a younger man and woman, and a little girl. They cautiously walked around the space given them to camp and popped open the hatch door on the Chevy. It was packed so full there was no daylight from back to front. The younger woman found a can of insect repellent and began spraying it on the ground in a most peculiar and regimented fashion. Soon out came a pop-up tent. Then two bicycles were unfolded, then several camp chairs. As they worked together setting the tent, the younger woman took pictures, several pictures, many pictures. Ed and I kind of chuckled at the sight, as Ed explained that his Asian daughters-in-law loved taking pictures, too.

Later, the older man and woman got on the bikes and went for a ride. The little girl was in an out of the tent, enjoying the novelty of what they all had worked so diligently to construct. The older man and I crossed paths a couple of times that evening, but he said nothing. Looking down at the ground, not a smile or a gesture, he walked past me, seeming not to notice my nod or smile. They kept quietly to themselves throughout the evening. By the time Chris, Ed and Christine and I came back from our outing and dinner at the Virginian Beach boardwalk, they had settled in around a small campfire. All to themselves, hardly a sound among them could be heard.

The next morning, after Chris had cooked breakfast on our new griddle, we were breaking camp. Ed and I set the bikes in their rack and I noticed the older man smiling at me. He gave me the “thumbs up,” signaling he liked the bike rack. This gave me the opportunity to walk over and say “hi.” The younger man, Yenti, explained that his father was impressed with the bike rack. Yenti told me he worked in Arlington, Va., and this was their first-ever camping experience and they really liked it. He said they were from China and I looked to the father and mother and said with a smile, “Welcome to America,” which Yenti translated. The father grabbed my hand and with the warmest smile shook it vigorously and nodded his head joyously. Then he wanted a picture with me and the bike rack. And another with Yenti and me.

Then, as I was climbing into the driver’s seat of our van, Yenti, his wife and the little girl flagged me down. The girl, Iris, wanted a picture with me and her grandfather. All warmth and smiles. I know that us Americans have our issues with the Chinese, but in this moment and this point in time, warmth and kindness melted away any differences real or perceived. 1 John 3:1 says, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” I do not know their religious beliefs, but I do know that some seed, some water and some harvest. In this family, I saw the love of God and showed the love of God. My prayer for them is for their relationship, current or future, with the King of Kings. It is the substance of things not seen, the hope for the whole of mankind.

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Bill Wilson