Downtown Breakdown

by Breanna Thornton

The golden sun began to climb its routine path into the morning sky as the inhabitants of Washington, D.C., began heading their usual separate ways. Yet on this beautiful morning, I could still hear a couple of birds singing above the clamor of city life. All of this added to a most effervescent spirit in my heart.

“It’s time to get up, girls,” called Mom.

How good it feels to have slept in for once on our vacation, I mused to myself while stumbling out of bed. Bethany, my sister, was still hiding under the covers, pretending to be asleep, while I started my morning routine. Dad soon had gathered the supplies for breakfast, and we all began eating Cheerios, Mom’s favorite.

“So we will be heading to the National Zoo today?” I asked.

“Yes, Breanna,” Dad replied.

“Hey, Dad, has the battery light in the van turned off yet?”

“No, Breanna. Why don’t you focus on preparing to go, instead of asking so many questions?”

As we drove into downtown Washington, D.C., the sights and sounds continued to make me feel most vivacious. We passed one intersection and then another, driving farther into the city. Mom suddenly blurted, “Honey, the van seems to be struggling. Turn off everything that is unnecessary, including the air conditioning and the audio tape player.”

“What do you mean? What’s wrong?” I asked. Oh, it sounds like a drama is about to unfold–this is going to be exciting, I thought as the car sputtered and jolted or just powerlessly coasted.

“Mommy, why did you turn the tape off?” Bethany insisted.

“Just stay quiet, girls, and start praying,” replied Mom matter-of-factly.

This is getting serious. I wonder what’s going to happen? I again kept my thoughts to myself. Where is Dad going? This little street–why, this surely looks bad now. Dad had suddenly turned onto a narrow, crowded street to avoid getting hit in the busy traffic on the larger road. Just then the van again began to slow down, and soon it stopped a couple of feet away from what looked like a gang of “bad guys” standing in front of a rundown house.

“Could one of you guys jump-start my car?” I heard Dad ask, starting to speak and act as if he was just another common city boy. One of the guys started up his own car and then hooked up the jumper cables to our van. He managed to successfully jump-start it.

With our van now running again, we drove onto a major street where, unfortunately, the van again stopped. Now we had no choice but to coast downhill, hoping to reach a gas station before the van’s momentum stopped. We made it to the gas station. Dad then headed into the gas station store, and Mom gathered us together for prayer.

Although Mom was so earnest in her prayer, I still did not comprehend the predicament that we were in. I hope we still make it to the zoo today. If not, we will be even more behind schedule, and we might not even make it to the National Zoo on this vacation,” I emphatically told my impractical self.

Dad came back with a rough-looking city man named John, who spent the next four hours working on our van together with Dad. John smelled of tobacco and alcohol and had an unkempt appearance, but kindly offered his assistance, tools, and time. While Dad and he worked, John constantly talked about his family’s current successes and challenges.

Meanwhile Mom, Bethany, and I sat on the curb next to the sidewalk watching the legs of everyone who went by, trying to not make eye contact and to be as inconspicuous as possible. I found I could watch the whole of people on the other side of the street, instead of just their legs. Walking up and down the street were ladies dressed in the most skimpy and revealing costumes, as well as other people covered with mud from head to toe. Others were carrying sticks or clubs that they were slamming against light posts and street signs as they sauntered down the street. One block over, there was the loudest pandemonium, which only added to the roar of the cars going by.

What in the world could be going on? I wondered.

Several police cars patrolled up and down the surrounding streets, and others continued to arrive throughout the afternoon. All of this made me feel most uncomfortable, but I knew that I must keep a nonchalant bearing.

Dad stepped toward Mom. “We need to purchase a new alternator. Everyone needs to pile into this gentleman’s car so that we can drive to an auto parts store across town.”

Do what? I exclaimed to myself. This is becoming intimidating–we don’t even know this man and if he is reliable. Breanna Thornton, relax and keep your poise; everything is going to be fine.

As we loaded into the car, I noticed the unkempt look of the vehicle, as well as a soda can (which later I learned was a can of beer) that the man sipped from while he drove. When we arrived at the auto parts store, Mom, Bethany, and I stayed in the boring car waiting for them to return. After completing this eternal drive two more times in an attempt to buy the correct auto part, we were finally ready to go.

Dad thanked John and prayed for him and his family before we left. He was obviously touched, and as we left, we noticed tears in his eyes.

When we arrived back at our room, we all breathed a sigh of relief, especially Dad. For worship that evening, Dad and Mom explained to us what really happened–that there was a riot on the street one block over, that this man could have been taking us somewhere that–well–was nothing at all like an auto parts store, and that we could have broken down in worse circumstances. They also pointed out that if God could use this moderately intoxicated man to encourage and help us, who were strangers, imagine how God should be able to use us to meet other people’s needs.

A feeling of awe swept over me. Sure, I had always realized that God took care of us, but that day I concretely experienced God’s protection. He truly does provide for our needs in amazing ways, I thought. When Dad asked me to share something that I had learned, I recalled Philippians 4:19: “God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”

God does care for and protect me more than I ever did or will realize. He is the reason I can walk with a confident step. I am truly cherished by God.

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Downtown Breakdown

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