After our stay with friends Greg and Sherry in Minnesota, Rich and I headed west then south through the Dakotas down through Iowa and into Missouri. We had planned to stay in a small town just outside Kansas City. This was no random choice. We were going to spend a couple of days with some very dear friends from our time in Naples, Italy. I had been a team member on many CREDO Personal Growth Retreats with Rod, and Richard and I had both been involved with the CREDO Marriage Enrichment Retreats with both Rod and his wife Trish.
Rod and Trish had made a flying visit with us about three years ago here in Jacksonville. They had been doing some east coast travelling and decided to dip down a little lower than originally planned to spend a day or so with us. That had been the first time we had seen each other since they had left Naples, Italy back in the mid-nineties. So we were very excited to be seeing them again. However, even though they were the primary reason for choosing to make Kansas City a stop on our 4,252 mile retirement ride, I had a secondary motive for wanting to stop there.
During the period 1989-91, Richard was transferred to a ship that was home-ported in Norfolk, VA. Although it wasn’t my first visit to the USA, it was the first time that I had lived here. It proved to be a very difficult time for me. The culture and way of life over here is drastically different from Europe. Everything over here involves distance and there is very little public transportation. And the distance factor enters into creating relationships with other people. In Europe everybody knows everybody. In Norfolk I found it very difficult to make friends; people seemed to live in their own boxes.
However, through a specific fellowship that I am involved with I did manage eventually to create some meaningful friendships. One lady in particular, Gert, became a very good and close friend. In the spring of 1991 Gert gifted me with a a subscription to Daily Word, a small daily reflection booklet that is published by UNITY. That booklet became my lifeline. It is the most positively uplifting daily meditational book that I have ever read. Wherever I went, Daily Word travelled with me, and I have continued to renew the subscription every year since then. I have used their twenty four hour prayer line many times over the years and it is such a comfort and a joy to make a call and get a real person on the other end who truly cares about whatever issue may be bothering me in the moment, and who is willing to pray with me and offer comfort.
Inside the front cover of the Daily Word each month there is a photo of the Silent Unity Chapel. There is always a light on in the top tower of this building and the photo intrigues me. Every time I see it I think, wow that’s where the prayer ministers are who receive all the phone calls and pray with all the callers – at any time of the day or the night every single day of every year. For the last fifteen years I have held a small dream to go there and visit. And here we were, planning to go to Kansas City and I knew that Unity Village was located somewhere close by. So when Rod asked if there was anything particular that we wanted to do/see in the area, I jumped right on it.
On Friday 26th August, we set off with Rod and Trish to go visit the Unity campus. I had no idea what a spiritual treat I was in for; God was in a most generous mood that day. Upon arrival we parked in the main parking lot right in front of the Book Store and Café. We decided to go in there because we figured that we could get information as to the layout of the campus and get directions to the Silent Unity building and chapel. The store was an absolute delight and we perused for a while. The staff was so helpful and we bought a couple of items and received a map of the campus. Imagine my joy when I found out that there was a large, handicap accessible labyrinth laid out on the ground immediately opposite the store. Rich, Rod, and Trish were quite happy to indulge my desire to walk the labyrinth and so with a happy heart I took my walk. Below is a video that Rich made and towards the end there are some still photos that he also took.
While I was walking the labyrinth, a large red-shouldered hawk came and rested at the very top of a tree on the edge of the labyrinth and watched me as I made the eleven circuits. His photo is here below.
When I had finished my walk we all went through a walkway and up some stairs to go visit the Silent Unity Chapel. Nothing quite prepared us for the beauty that lay before us at the top of the stairs. The campus buildings were laid out in a long oblong design and centered in the middle of them was a beautifully designed formal garden with fountains and pools. The whole thing made me think immediately of Europe and of St. Augustine, Florida because there was a Spanish flair in the design. I could have stayed there for hours. It truly filled my heart and soul with great happiness.
We wandered along and crossed the a small bridge over the central pool then headed toward the chapel. Trish and I went inside noting that there were two other people already there – a man and a woman. As we entered, the woman turned around toward us and said, “we are just about to do a guided meditation, would you like to join in?” We both assented, and spent the next fifteen minutes being guided through a beautiful reflection. This was another highlight of the trip for me. We spent a little more time walking around the campus and taking in the peacefulness and serenity of that place, before heading off to have a lovely lunch together.
San Antonio, Texas was a complete surprise for me. I expected a typical busy city atmosphere, and instead found myself in an unusual and interesting environment. Yes, there were elements of the big city but they were tempered by other features which made San Antonio a really pleasant place to be.
Imagine a big city which is hosting 70,000 extra people for about 5-7 days. Chaos right? Wrong. This city had prepared for our event and everything was geared up to handle the inundation of humanity. Restaurants were well stocked and had plenty of staff on hand to deal with hungry mouths looking for some good Tex-Mex food and some of that great Texan barbecue.
The police were really well organized and extremely gracious to the thousands of visitors. Everything that I heard from my fellow convention attendees was positive. Accommodations were good and everyone said they were treated well. The hundreds of local volunteers who greeted people at the airport, outside hotels, and on streets corners were full of smiles, joy, laughter and lots of helpful information.
We were in the heart of the city with just a seven to eight minute walk separating our condo from the Henry B. Gonzalez convention center and the fifty thousand capacity Alamodome. But what a walk! This area of San Antonio is known as RiverWalk and is absolutely beautiful. A whole system of canals intertwine through the neighborhood. Small river boats seating about 25 people are piloted through these waterways as informative guides point out places of interest and speak about the history of San Antonio.
Along each side of the canals were cobblestone walkways and shade trees. These walkways were flanked by restaurants and shops and were criss-crossed by pretty arching bridges. It really made me think of a smaller scale Venice. And because the architecture of this area is so varied and interesting I almost felt as though I was in Europe:-).
San Antonio is the site of the Alamo. This is a famous historical monument which stands as a testament to the bravery and courage of the people who fought for Texas liberty. In 1836 the Texian and Tejano volunteers, alongside famous characters such as Jim Bowie, the well-known knife fighter, and Davie Crockett, famed frontiersman and former Congressman from Tennessee, fought against General Santa Anna’s Mexican army. They withstood the onslaught for just over thirteen days before they were overpowered.
On Sunday, before leaving San Antonio, we attended Mass at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. This church was built by German immigrants and is very representative of a miniature European cathedral. It is very beautiful both inside and outside and a wonderful place to come and worship God. I think that about seventy five percent of the congregation was made up of our convention attendees, and the priest made a point of making us feel very welcome.
Because we were involved in a four-day convention, we did not have enough time to do this city justice. I know that San Antonio boasts the 750-foot tall Tower of the Americas, is also home to a SeaWorld, the Six Flags Fiesta, a fine zoo, and the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park. I certainly would be happy to make a second visit to San Antonio and would highly recommend it as a vacation destination.