If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Luke 6:32 (NIV)
While in Pensacola, we visited Fort Pickens which is a part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore where oldest son works. Throughout the week, I had been listening to our son talk about the “caste” system in the park service. You are either an interpreter or law enforcement or maintenance or administration, and each class seemed to think itself separate and better than the others. Yet, I was surprised that he knew very little about the history of the fort. In my job with local history museums, everyone does whatever is needed. We might be giving tours one minute, scrubbing toilets the next, later repairing a building and ending the day by balancing the accounts. Historians don’t ever go on vacation, so I fell right into the role of interpreter, as I picked up the very well done self guided tour and begin telling our family about the fort as we walked through it. Built to guard the pass into Pensacola Bay, the large brick fort took five years to build. Construction began in 1829 and ended in 1834. The fort, named for Revolutionary War hero, General Andrew Pickens, was used until 1947. The fort was built by enslaved African Americans who not only endured the dangerous work, but the weather, heat, bugs and diseases such as yellow fever. In 1887, Apache prisoners including Geronimo were kept there as Native Americans in the southeast were gathered to be sent west. I not only enjoyed learning about its history, but seeing the interesting architecture. The arches, stairways, tunnels and windows were beautiful in a rustic sort of way. We took lots of photos and teased and laughed together as we toured. After we left the fort, we walked to the snack bar for drinks to cool off. On the way, youngest son’s girlfriend stepped on a prickly pear, a cactus that grows in Florida’s sandy areas. It stuck in her foot and was very painful. Youngest son became her hero as he used his EMT skills to get it out. We were able to enjoy the rest of our day, spending time together and building closer bonds with our family. When we left, I was reflecting on all we’d seen and done. We had a great family vacation with those we are close to and care for, but I was reminded that in this life, just when we are having fun and enjoying the journey, like the cactus, we can come across someone who is all prickly and causes pain. They might be shut up like a fortress refusing to let us inside or caught up in their own needs and be unwilling to share. Maybe they just don’t know how. It is easy to love our family and friends, but we are also called to love the unlovable. It is hard to do, but the One who asks us to obey and share His love, will give us the ability to love even when it hurts and is difficult.