John and I had an unintended adventure this week. He was driving me to Menucha Retreat and Conference Center for a meeting with my colleagues from Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and California. It was a normal enough day, good timely beginning to our seven-hour journey west on I-84 that turns north through Oregon to Portland, sun not too bright, traffic relatively light.
Having grown up in Ohio and traveled mostly from Cleveland to Florida or into upstate NY, I love driving through the variety of topography in Idaho. It is like nothing I have ever experienced before moving to the NW and it holds my fascination (especially since I am not driving!).
Then it happened. In a light rain the traffic on I-84 came to a sudden and complete standstill. We idled the engine, then turned it off, John ventured out of the car to speak with others, and I got on the web to see what had happened. It was obviously bad. The Boise TV station KTVB identified the stoppage was due to a multiple vehicle accident earlier that morning in the icy rain and fog. ODOT had closed down both sides of the freeway for clearing the wreck. Cringe-worthy. So we sat, napped, chatted, and wondered out loud how long we would have to be here. At about an hour and a half the planned for Rest Area break could wait no longer.
It happens that there was an exit about 500 feet ahead. John convinced the man behind us to pull back so we could maneuver between the trucks and get to the berm. Success. And we were on our way following the GPS arrow, not totally knowing how long before we could re-enter the freeway.
At the first turn in the road we arrived at Meacham OR, a bit of a bend-in-the-road type town. Thankfully there was a store/Post Office/restaurant as one drove into town. We stopped in the mud and rain. John checked to see if there were facilities for the public and he waved me out of the car.
We found ourselves in a delightfully cheery haven.
We were warmly greeted by the owner and her husband, also the postmistress for the area, and shown the restrooms. As time at this point was tight, we had a fleeting thought of buying a snack and hitting the road. Instead, we chose to pause long enough to get some directions.
And we were graced... we were graced with a friendly couple ready to serve two sojourners without expectation of anything in payment. We didn't resist! In response we paused long enough to enjoy a huge bowl of homemade soup and conversation, along with the local folks wandering in and out for their mail sharing stories of the ice on the roads overnight and all the problems it caused.
While enjoying our soup, an older couple came for their daily lunch. The husband helped them up the steps and into the restaurant area and it was quickly apparent that we were sitting at "their" table, that was also identified as the "family" table. We were happy to move or share our space so we were joined by a 90+ year-old couple, married for who knows how long obviously very caring for each other. What a joy to simply watch their interactions.
The grace-filled time still had a surprise. The owner immediately introduced her friend as a "retired minister" but wasn't sure if he was Presbyterian or Methodist. We shared our backgrounds and the conversation took off! The "Methodist Reverend" was knowledgeable about Presbyterian camps and even knew of a Boise pastor who had served La Grande. What a joy we had in sharing.
It was time to hit the road and try to re-enter I-84. First stop - gas! As John got out of the car to fill up the pick-up truck that had been two vehicles ahead of us during the stoppage was also there. In talking with the driver he shared that they had just gotten moving and wondered where we had gone since we left the inter-state so long ago. John smiled and shared that we had experienced a nice lunch. Obviously we made the better choice!
Lesson of the day: If we pause long enough... we will be given a gift of gracious people who openly invite you to sit at the family table and share a slice of their lives with you. Thank you Meacham Oregon.