After a lot of driving, we settled on The Cheesecake Factory. We sat and reminisced about how good the One Project experience had been. Throughout the conversation, the Australian crew asked many questions about my experience in the Middle East. I was happy to share small snippets and stories. I was processing it all myself.
The conversation at the table was light and fun with lots of laughter. I was beginning to see that Aussies are lighthearted and love to joke. As the evening wore on, they began discussing their plans for the next day. They had scheduled a Frank Lloyd Wright Tour in Oak Park. I laughed internally as they tried to remember the name of the suburb and pronounce it.
What’s the name of the town we have to go to? Oak, Oak….Oak Ridge? Oakbrook? No that’s close to where we are now.
Oak Park? Frank Lloyd Wright? Could it be Oak Park I said?
It was laughable to me because, while I don’t know all of Chicago, I know Oak Park. That’s my old stomping grounds.
Why don’t you come with us? One of them asked. I thought to myself, I’ve only been able to travel to so many places and see so many things because people have been kind to me as I’ve traveled. I wanted to pay that hospitality forward to this group. I offered to drive to give room for more people on the tour. It was settled. I was going on the tour with them the next day.
The following day, we arrived at the Frank Lloyd Wright house.
Peter, the guy I had sat next to the night before at dinner rode in my car, along with Bec. We began the tour. As the guide shared information about the house, I began to notice a pattern. Whenever the guide would talk, Peter would be close by my side and whisper commentary. Soon his comments began to be at the same time as the guide’s. I thought to myself, wow, he sure is being a Chatty Cathy! We got a few side eyes from the others on the tour. But Peter wasn’t sharing random chatter, he was sharing additional information about the house and the architect that he thought I should know.
We arrived at the gift shop, and I looked around casually. I saw a pendant that resembled a ginkgo leaf – something that reminded me of my childhood. I admired it.
At this time, Peter was peering over my shoulder watching and listening to me talk about this leaf. I saw him buy a Christmas ornament for his mother and then we all headed out.
From there, we started heading towards the city. As we were driving, Bec shared everyone’s travel plans with me. She said one of the couples, who lived in the States, would be heading back home the next day. She and her husband would meet up with relatives and the other couple was traveling on to Alaska the next day. The only person who would be left in the city was Peter. I asked him what he planned to do the next day. He told me he’d probably wander the city and take a ride on the EL, Chicago’s elevated train.
In my mind, I imagined this nice Aussie on the EL, without all the Chicago street smarts he’d need. I thought of all the people who had shown me kindness as I traveled – even weeks before my return to the States, I was in Istanbul and two sisters were so kind and showed me around. After a brief moment I said, if you want, I can show you around the city tomorrow, so you don’t have to wander by yourself. His face lit up with a smile. I would like that, he said.
I’m almost sure in that moment that our guardian angels gave each other high fives for their success!