I was telling this story to a friend last weekend. I’d almost forgotten about it.
When I was around 12 or 13 my parents took me and my best friend, Rhonda, to Washington D.C. for a week of sightseeing. We stayed in a fancy hotel right in the heart of the city, I can’t remember which one, but it was very elegant. Right after we checked in and my parents were unpacking, Rhonda and I asked if it would be okay if we went out and just wandered around a little bit, and they said, just go around the block and come back in half an hour.
We left the hotel and started walking and after a few minutes we saw that there was a small crowd of people waiting outside a church. Before we knew it, we realized that there were secret service people there and that President Johnson and Lady Bird were leaving the church. We got up front because we were smaller than almost everyone else and put out our hands. President Johnson shook my hand (his hand was enormous) and when I tried to shake Lady Bird’s hand, Johnson grabbed my hand and shook it again. Rhonda and I were so thrilled we raced back to the hotel, to tell my parents this exciting news.
“Mom! Dad! Guess what? We saw President Johnson and Lady Bird coming out of a church! And we shook his hand! Twice!”
My mother and father laughed. “Oh, that’s so cute. Very funny, Robin.”
It took us quite awhile to convince them that we had indeed seen the President of the United States and his wife and that we’d both had a chance to shake his hand. And then later in the week, we also met Hubert Humphrey when we went to the Capital. Years later, I was at a small rally somewhere on Long Island where Robert Kennedy spoke when he was running for the presidency. And I was at the Democratic Convention when Bill Clinton made his acceptance speech. And about two months after Gore lost the election, I met him on a street corner in SoHo and we had a long talk. He was really handsome, with the bluest eyes. We were standing in front of the Mercer Hotel and if we weren’t both married, I would have suggested we get a room. I encouraged him to speak out because we were all having a collective nervous breakdown about the election and he said that he was about to give a speech at a Move On event and he hasn’t shut up since. (Thank God.)
This week’s Democratic convention exceeded all of my expectations. After the convention, on Charley Rose, two former classmates of Obama’s from Harvard Law spoke about what he was like when they were all in law school. They said there was no doubt that he was brilliant, thoughtful and clearly destined for greatness. It took me a little while to come to this realization, but I am firmly there now. HIS ACCEPTANCE SPEECH WAS PHENOMENAL. I just pray that he will be safe and that the Democrats can play hardball with the Republicans.
I was thinking about Johnson because of the Civil Rights bill and because of an excellent article about him in the NY Times (it’s the number one most emailed article. I would post it here, but I’m not sure how to do that, so if you can, take a look on the Times website.)
And regarding meditation, a good friend of mine was telling me about a book he read recently “Touching Enlightenment: Finding Realization in the Body” by Reginald A. Ray, who is a Buddhist writer. The book’s thesis is that “all the wisdom we could ever want is held by the body. By learning to release and let go of the places where we are physically holding on (evidenced as physical discomfort, emotion, etc.) we can let the wisdom of our bodies guide us towards our true self and purpose. We don’t have to ‘think’ anything, just let it unfold from within.”
I liked that idea. Yoga, I imagine, is one way of physically letting go. I guess whatever works for you…stretching, dancing, standing on your head to view the world with a different perspective.
Anyway, I guess I’m just going to keep walking around the block to see what I can discover.