Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

March 29, 2012

Another View

Washington, D.C.-The Kind City

Charlotte Shivvers

Knoxville —  


I surprise myself with this title.  Here’s how it happened.  My husband and I wanted to visit D.C. and could afford to stay there only because a friend of a friend volunteered, “You can stay here.”


We didn’t realize how outrageously kind that was until we arrived and saw that he had moved out of his bedroom to a much smaller room so we would have ample space.  He moved with equal speed to get a sticker for our car so we could park on his street.


We had arrived – by chance – during cherry blossom time, plus spring school break, which brought an extra million or so tourists.  The real challenge though came because Washington seems designed as a city for mass transit, bicycle, taxi, and walking.  Wonderful – unless you have a car and need to park. 


So we bravely explored the bus system.  That’s when I realized the word for our Washington visit was “kind.”  Yes, I mean “kind” like considerate, compassionate, and helpful.  One bus-driver after another patiently took time to tell us how to catch the next bus. 

 In our brief visit we could see only one of our Senators, and chose the one we hadn’t seen recently, Senator Harkin.  We found his Wednesday morning breakfast a fine buffet, with staff members who kindly learned our interests while the Senator moved through the crowd to visit with each of us.  

While waiting we met others, including Pork Producers.  I got to visit with a neighbor from that group.  The word “kind” applies again – he must know that I’ve been vocal with concerns about Confinement Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO’s) like his, but he came over to offer me a valuable local map. 

Mr. Harkin was surely tired of talking with Iowans – or people in general – by the time he got to us.  But he was warm and welcoming, even though I mentioned my interest in legalizing marijuana. He listened, and sighed.  I believe he indicated that U.S. drug policy is out of date, ineffective, and overdue for an overhaul.  It made me feel sorry for anyone in government.  

The courtesy that led our Capitol tour and the kindness of another friend-of-a-friend who gave a West Wing tour were like the courtesy we felt as we visited monuments, museums, and memorials.  I felt special kindness when I learned that admission to all these national treasures is – nothing

No kindness, however, could erase the sadness that our history also carries.  At the Viet Nam Wall I walked in prayer, seeing names of over 58,000 courageous citizens who died in that horrible, unnecessary war.  It was good to climb up to the Lincoln Memorial and remember both Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King – and the dream we share.  

I realized the deep kindness of our Washington host later when he showed us Beacon House, the after-school program for children he started in what was one of the worst, most drug-ridden, area of the city.  Through years of effort, and the team he brought together, the place now shines with children, and the neighborhood glows with renewed health.

I will remember the beauty:  time-worn monuments, old brick homes on tree-lined streets, wondrous human diversity, but especially the kindness.  Yes, when I despair over what is happening – and not happening – in this city of government, I want to remember the kindness it gave us.  I need that – a new energy of hope.