“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” –Jeremiah 29:11
Ok, so last week was our end-of-summer vacation to San Francisco. Here was the plan: Monday morning take the 9:30am train from Seattle to Emeryville and then bus over to San Francisco. Be sightseeing by 10am and see all the sights all week long. Be completely tuckered out and totally stuffed with food and trinkets. Catch the bus back to Emeryville at 7:30pm on Friday and be home and in our beds by 9:30p Saturday. We had lots of excitement over the adventure because we’d never been to San Francisco before and I had bought all kinds of tickets for use to see all kinds of great things!
Now, here’s what actually happened: We spent 22 hours on the train Monday, 7 hours in San Francisco Tuesday and were back home on Wednesday at 9:30p. If your brain is trying to figure out that math, it will help you to know that we arrived in and left from San Francisco on the SAME DAY!! Talk about not expecting the plans God has for you!
The train ride down to San Francisco was lovely. It’s fun to travel by train and Sylvia had our own room so we were set. Our only challenge the first night was trying to figure out how to shut off the light in our room. We tried to sleep with it on and then around 11p I looked up and saw the switch. Nothing like paying attention!!! Other than that, we met lovely people and spent the day just hanging out and chit-chatting.
When we arrived in Emeryville, we hopped onto a coach bus and headed into San Francisco. I hadn’t done a TON of research on the city but I had City Passes and Open-Top bus passes so I felt like we were all set. The weather was lovely too, which was nice. The bus dropped us off in the Union Square shopping area which was just a few blocks away from our hotel so it was a fairly easy walk. We headed out down Powell and turned left on Geary and that’s when everything shifted.
I began to notice that the neighborhood got a little dirtier and run down. As we were walking, I started thinking, hmm…this could get interesting. I was still feeling optimistic that our trip would be awesome and then we came to the hotel. If I hadn’t been looking for the sign, I wouldn’t have seen the door. It was about the 5th hotel in a row, each getting a little less “pretty” on the outside. We got checked in and headed to our room.
This room was, well, um, four walls with two beds and a bathroom so yes, it was a room. The door was flimsy enough that I’m pretty sure I could have broken it down if I leaned on it just right. There was a lovely, musty odor. The view from the window was of 3 other buildings roof tops. On the bright side, there was a ceiling fan AND a TV! The bathroom was also pretty nice. (Too bad you had to go through the room to get to it!) At this point it’s 10a and I’m starting to feel worried that I’ve made a horrible mistake.
We chill in the room for an hour and hit the road to hop on a bus and tour the city. The guy at the front desk didn’t know exactly where we were supposed to go so we wandered a little bit until we found a city information booth and got some directions. We hopped on the bus and began our San Francisco adventure! I kid you not, within 6 blocks of where we got on the bus, and about 2 blocks from our hotel, the tour guide points out that we are now on skid row. Awesome! I chose a hotel that was 2 blocks from the worst part of town!! (I clearly need to be a travel agent ‘cuz I’m THAT good.) At this point I’m starting to pray and ask God for guidance on what to do next. I know myself well enough to know I won’t be able to sleep in the hotel and Sylvia was already feeling like the place was creepy.
So as we are touring along, I’m trying to soak the situation in and still look around what is a huge and old city. We go over the Golden Gate Bridge and nearly get blown out of the bus. It was an awesome view, no doubt about it. It was also extremely windy and chilly. As we are coming back we decide that we want to go back to the Haight/Ashbury district and do a little shopping. Altogether, by the time we go around the large loop once and get back to Haight/Ashbury, a little over an hour has passed and I’m thinking that we need to be sure to be back in the hotel before it gets dark. Not exactly what you want to be thinking on your vacation.
We get off the bus in front of Golden Gate Park to about 30 homeless folks in 3-4 groups. Some smoking cigarettes, some drinking from paper bags and some smoking other things that are much tangier scented. I’m now much more nervous and just want to go to a couple stores and then head back to the hotel. We pop into McDonald’s for a pit stop and find that the only way into the bathroom is to be buzzed in due to security. Great! We head off to a couple shops and pass a drug deal along the way. Perfect! This is exactly how I envisioned this vacation!! Not.
By this time I honestly an uncertain I can keep us safe for the next few hours let alone for the entire week. I’ve been praying for peace and not getting any. I’ve been praying for guidance and just feel like not staying is the only real option. So, I called Amtrak and changed our reservation home from Friday to Tuesday. We went back to the hotel, packed up and checked out just a few hours after checking in. We walked back to the bus stop and by 7:30p on Tuesday we were back in Emeryville waiting to board the train home.
My plans were to have a relaxing and fun adventure in a new city with my daughter. God’s plan was to show me that there are a lot of hurting people out there that are living with no hope. My heart was so broken for the people we saw that all I did was cry off and on all day Thursday. I’ve seen plenty of homeless people but this felt different. This felt dark and sad. There was no light in the places we saw, no joy, no happiness. And quite honestly, no way out. It was an eye-opening experience that I was not expecting.
Sylvia and I did have a great week together. We hung out and chatted about the new school year and her friends. We met some awesome people on the train. We did some school shopping and more hanging out. I dare say we spent more face time and talk time together home than we would have had we stayed out of town and for that I am grateful. I am also grateful for God’s protection and guidance and for laying on my heart His burden for people. It’s been a great vacation and honestly, I wouldn’t change a thing about it. 🙂
I pray you are always open to seeing what God’s plan is for your life. I could have been mad that He didn’t give me more guidance in the planning. I could have been made at the extra money spent. Instead, I chose to say thanks for the new vision and heart for sharing God’s love with others. When we have our hope in Christ, we have to find ways to share it because there are a lot of people out there who don’t know what hope is and that’s frightening to me.
Live in God’s love, grace, peace and mercy. Look for ways to share your hope in Christ. Love those around you. Oh, and make sure you know what area of town you are staying in BEFORE you get there. 🙂