I woke up the next day wondering where I could take Peter. Knowing he’s a librarian, I settled on the Harold Washington Library, and I decided to let us figure out the rest.
I opened my phone to check the time. In checking the time, I also saw the date. It hadn’t registered to me before, but providentially, it just so happened to be February 14, Valentine’s Day. Oh no! I thought to myself. How awkward to go out with this guy that I barely knew on Valentine’s Day. My mind quickly tried to think of how to downplay all of the romance that would be in the air.
I went to pick Peter up, and the conversation flowed easily. We went to the Library, drove by Harpo Studios and peered out the windows at the city. Finally, we got hungry. My mind immediately went to the fact that it was Valentine’s Day. All of the restaurants would be dripping with romance, from the music to the food to the entire atmosphere. I wondered to myself, where can we go that’s not too romantic? Then it came to me…Wishbone!
Then I thought, we need to go early, to avoid the Valentine’s Day crowd. When we arrived, it was too early for the dinner crowd and too easygoing of a restaurant for all the guys who were trying too hard. There’s something about Southern comfort food that prevents pretentiousness. When we sat down, a waitress quickly came to our table. In almost slow motion the words came out of her mouth: Do you want the Valentine’s Day menu?
I was quick on the draw. No, I want breakfast food. Peter looked at the waitress and said, She’s not interested in me anyway so it doesn’t matter. I heard him but thought it best to ignore his comment. There was a moment of silence, and then the conversation picked up again.
With a very natural ease, the conversation turned back to the One Project. Peter asked me, Do you mind if we talk about spiritual things? I know we’re not in church or anything, but I’m still full from the experience we had at the One Project, and I still want to talk about it.
I’m happy to keep talking about it, I said. I don’t restrict Jesus to just one place and time in my life. And in that moment, we set a precedent in our communication: Jesus was welcome anytime and anywhere.
Despite all of my concern, dinner was anything but sappy. It was great conversation and even better food – dishes I had missed while living in the Middle East. From there, we headed over to a bookshop with a cafe and chatted the evening away. As I dropped Peter off at his hotel, he reiterated what the other Aussies had said the day before. You should come to Australia for a visit. In fact, come to the One Project in Newcastle in July. I smiled politely, and said I’d think about it, but inside my head I thought, I’m NOT going to Australia. Australia was never on my radar. By this point in my life I’d traveled around the world, but Australia wasn’t on my list of countries to visit. Much of it had to do with the fact that English is the national language.
As I headed home, I turned the day over in my mind. When I pulled into my driveway, I remembered Peter had told me to check the trunk, because he had left something there for me. When I opened the trunk, I found a small box. I opened it and inside I found the small ginkgo pendant that I had admired in the Frank Lloyd Wright house the day before. A small smile tugged at the corners of my mouth. I couldn’t help but be happy at his show of kindness. I went in the house and sat on my bed and thought, Wow! That was the best Valentine’s Day I’ve ever had. It was purely platonic. Nothing romantic happened. We didn’t kiss, but the company was amazing. It was so great that I thought Peter, and the rest of Facebook, needed to know. So I did what any modern woman would do: I updated my Facebook status saying “Best Valentine’s Day ever. Unpretentious fun (for some reason I can’t find it on my FB page anymore.)” Peter must have seen it because soon after he posted something similar.
And in those moments, as we headed our separate ways, for me to acclimate myself to my country and for him to return to his country, I thought that would be the last I’d see of Peter. I was grateful for the company from the day before, but I never imagined anything would ever come of it.
Beside the fact that Peter lived over 9,000 miles (over 15,000 km) away from me, I also didn’t expect it to grow into anything beyond one great Valentine’s Day because God had been reiterating a consistent message to me over the previous five months: “Be Still.” (Psalm 46:10)