Goodness abounds. About a year ago, Kim and James approached me to officiate at their wedding. They met as high school freshman 11 years ago and what began as a friendship over the years turned into so much more.
They were looking for a small wedding with just 20 people — that’s all their limited budget could manage. Note that the average 2013 cost of a US wedding is $28,000 with the venue rental running one-third of the total cost.
They were putting together a small ceremony and when they approached me; I was more than ready to help. One of the best kept secrets in the Metro-DC area is that a couple can get married at one of the national parks for $50 (2-hour time slot from setup to shutdown). A year ago, they reserved a small section of the Great Falls National Park in McLean, VA as their wedding venue. They were to be married on Friday, October 4, 2013. Over the past few months, we worked on a highly-personalized ceremony – everything was going great.
Then on Tuesday, Oct. 1st, the government shut down.
A little known fact of the shutdown is that all national park weddings, a function of the National Park Service, were immediately canceled. With just three days to their wedding date, Kim and James were frantic but determined. It was suggested that they go on a local radio station on Wednesday, Oct. 2nd and bring their plight to its listeners. Within 15 minutes, a woman called offering her home free-of-charge. Her home was an actual mansion two properties away from Mount Vernon, the plantation home of George Washington and on the shoreline of the Potomac. The properly, originally built in 1917, was the home of former Redskin’s player Sonny Jurgensen for 37 years.
When asked why she was doing this, she said that it was just the right thing to do and only requested that Kim and James “pay it forward.” This was the simple and unassuming request from the kindness of a stranger.
I’ve been reflecting on the lessons in this wonderful turn-of-events. I think one of the big takeaways is that we are not our circumstances — no matter how difficult, “unfair,” or unexpected. I am also reminded that we are all called to leadership and it has nothing to do with charisma but everything to do with character. What are your thoughts?