Dunkin Donuts, the Pentagon, and Ethiopia

mzl.gjdzvroj.175x175-75When you’re on a 14 hour road trip, you have lots of time to think.
Especially when you’re the driver, your spouse is sleeping off his 4am driving shift, and your 4 kids are absorbed with their technology in the back of your vehicle and not making a peep.

The iExit Lite app on my phone alerted us that we were coming up on a Dunkin Donuts stop near Pentagon, VA. Finally–we were nearing sugar, caffeine, and civilization again! When we turned off the highway, it seemed like many more turns and miles before we finally reached Dunkin Donuts. I’m always racing the “ETA” on our GPS, and this out-of-the-wayness was losing us valuable minutes off our time!

The  donut shop was empty, except for two cops sitting at a front table talking up a very amicable storm over coffee. I encouraged the kids to be on their best behavior since there were police officers in the shop–telling them to make themselves proud in case the patrolmen were watching them.

A bell on the door tinkled upon entering, and we were greeted by two svelt ladies, whose age I couldn’t quite discern. They had beautiful cream tea colored skin and their hair was mysteriously masked in loose turbans of muted white cotton cloth with with the tiniest hint of rosy pink flowers dotting a pattern through the material.

I said hello looking directly into their shy, tipped-down faces before heading to take up my position outside the bathroom door to usher the kids through their “duties” while Dan based himself by the cash register to place donut orders after each child finished at my “station”. I could see that there was an interaction going on at the register with lots of smiling. When all were finished and I approached the counter, I saw each of my kids happily munching on two donut holes apiece, and figured that was the interchange and reason for the smiles.

I placed my donut and coffee order, helped the indecisive child decide on something, and thanked the ladies that had served us wishing them a wonderful day as we walked back to our van to load in for another few hours of driving. The police officers acted as if they hadn’t even noticed us.

“That was so nice of them to give the kids donut holes–they didn’t have to do that!”, I said.

Dan replied, “They said it was a ‘Happy New Year’ treat. And they asked me if Taye was from Ethiopia, they said they could totally tell where he was from!”

I was amazed. I try not to assume all people of color are from Africa, but I HAD noticed their bone structure, the shape of their faces, shy downturned glances, and way they wrapped their hair. Something in me knew but was too afraid to assume or ask in case I was wrong.

As I spent the next few hours driving, I thanked God that I lived in a country wrapped in rich history, oozing with freedom and blessing, safety despite the tragedy that happened more than a decado ago and could have been worse in the city we had just driven by. And for taking us right to that particular Dunkin Donuts at that exact time. We were supposed to be there–to feel safe in an unfamiliar city thanks to the presence of those two policemen. To see and be recognized by people who share a birth country but enjoy the freedoms of American living.

I hope I never get over the wonder of God’s orchestrations of life and these ironic encounters. My times are truly in his hands (Ps. 31:15a)…even on a road trip that I think I planned!


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