An act of kindness and a lesson learned


The Smithsonian Museum Headquarters Washington DC
Photo by: Sara Cottle on Unsplash

A lesson for today. Many years ago, I was transferred to Forrest City, Arkansas. (named after Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest) to be the engineering manager at the Yale Hoist manufacturing plant. Our children were about 7 and 9 years old. We were doing our best to give them a broad education while they attended schools that had limited resources with an emphasis on “Deep South” culture.

While we were there a Tutankhamun exhibition of items from the Pharaoh’s tomb was being held in Washington DC, so it seemed like a good idea to make a trip there to expose the children to the exhibition and all of the history and treasures of the numerous museums of the Smithsonian. The exhibition was extremely popular and the crowds attending resulted in lines nearly around the block as the number of people and viewing time was restricted to allow reasonable accommodation for people to study the artifacts. (You can see I had a taste of life today many years ago!)

We kept watching museum information each day hoping we could find a time when the lines were shorter so we would not have to spend valuable vacation time waiting. Finally, on the last afternoon of our visit late in the day we decided; it is now or never- we will just have to stand in line.

We found a parking place on the street to the rear of the museum and started the search to find the entry line. We found a park at the end of the museum with a path through it that led to the front. The path was lined with trees and tall bushes, and in the late afternoon shadows looked rather foreboding. By staying on the sidewalk, we could stay in the open, but it was a long trek and I was in a hurry.

Although the kids and even my wife were reticent to take the shortcut, I stubbornly led us onto that route. About halfway through, we came upon a group of workers near the side of the path (remember where our kids were being schooled and who their contacts outside of our home were). Both children and my wife were tense, and even I questioned my decision because we were alone.

As we approached, one of the men called out, “Hey, come here!” By now even my bravado was plunging. “What’s up” I asked? “Come here”, he said again as I edged closer, and then he asked, “Are you going to the exhibition?”. I gulped a “yes” as I cautiously approached. “Here” he said, “I have these four tickets they gave us, and I’m not going to use them. Take them and go to the pre-ticket line. It is much shorter.” I asked if he was selling them, he emphasized, “no”, and refused any money.

In the pre-ticket line there was only a few minutes wait. We had a wonderful visit to the Tutankhamun exhibit and the whole family learned a lot that day. The best and long-lasting lesson was just how thoughtful and wonderful ALL people can be including the African-American buildings and grounds worker, our benefactor! This is especially so now as many people reiterate, how deeply our culture has ingrained our prejudices to the degree that we don’t admit so until we experience an awakening.

Contributed by:  Ed Koskie

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