My husband and I recently flew to Las Vegas for a few days. Our good friend had acquired some free rooms and he invited us to make use of one of them. Since we both felt the need to get away, we pondered this offer. When we were able to find inexpensive flights for the proposed dates, we happily accepted. Mike is always prepared to travel and he looked forward to this mini-vacation without a worry. I, on the other hand, need to “feel” prepared. As a result, I worry until the suitcase is packed and weighs less than the fifty pound limit, our plane tickets are double-checked and in hand and we arrive at the airport two hours early.
We flew out of General Mitchell Airport in Milwaukee which made parking and the security check less taxing than they might have been. After we boarded, I settled into my seat with a prayer of gratitude and a week’s worth of The Trib’s crossword puzzles. As I’d hoped, this paperwork kept me occupied until we landed in Las Vegas. I stopped between puzzles only to check the blue sky beyond the window and my husband’s assessment of his newspaper’s offerings. Though all was not well with the world beyond that airplane, I looked forward to this short reprieve from reality and the peace that awaited us.
Mike and I traveled to Las Vegas once before several years ago. When we disembarked from the plane, a detail from that first trip came to mind. Humankind had surrounded me a decade ago and would do so for the duration of this trip as well. As we made our way toward the baggage claim, people hurried along while slot machines sang in the background. Near the luggage carousel, two dozen limousine drivers held signs with the hope of finding their scheduled fares. I stood with our carry-on while Mike nuzzled his way into the crowd waiting to grab their bags. By the time we headed toward the rental car shuttle, I realized this would not be the peaceful get-away I’d longed for.
Our hotel offered parking on one side of its property and our room on the other. We walked what seemed like miles though casinos, shops and hurrying people to check in. When the receptionist indicated that the elevator to our floor was just steps away, I breathed a sigh of relief. The waiting elevator elicited my smile. The mid-hallway room with its inviting décor and insulated walls urged a prayer of gratitude from me. After freshening up, we opted for a Mexican restaurant we’d tried ten years earlier. Our walk was pleasant and the restaurant was just as we remembered it. Though dinner exceeded our expectations, we topped it off with a scoop of gelato. We leisurely strolled back to our hotel in spite of the hustle and bustle around us. I turned in that night with a grateful smile as I’d tasted a bit of the peace I’d hoped for.
Las Vegas continued to rumble around us as we continued to find ways to replenish our spirits. Red Rock Canyon lies just outside of the gambling metropolis. It is likely one of the most beautiful sights in the Mojave Desert. We spent hours enjoying the amazing rock formations, plant life and animals which give the canyon its character. Though the area drew many visitors that day, each one of us seemed immersed in his or her own brand of peaceful appreciation. We spent another handful of hours exploring our way to the Guardian Angel Cathedral. Though it is no larger than our own parish church, it offered a warm welcome to all who stopped in. It seemed to me that those guardian angels likely get quite a workout trying to nurture the peace that lies within their charges. As the rest of our trip unfolded, I entertained the possibility that we had been taken under one of their wings because peace remained with as we made our way back through the frenetic streets and casinos. That peace remained with us all the way home.
In John’s gospel (John 14:23-29), Jesus speaks of a peace which is not of this world –a peace so deep and strong that it remains in spite of the misery around us and within us. Jesus offered this peace to his friends knowing full well that, once it made its home in them, they would be impelled to share it with others. As it happened, they changed our world forever with this gift. Somehow, my husband and I experienced the same in the midst of what some call Sin City. Somehow, regardless of where you find yourself, Jesus offers the same to you. Jesus’ only request is that we share this peace with whomever we meet wherever we go.
©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved