As I get older, I find myself getting more and more spiritual, and that is a good thing. As a youngster, many moons ago, when something good would happen to me, I would attribute it all to luck. Find a dollar on the street–how lucky is that! Make a really long basketball shot—pure luck. Score a great job, boy did he get lucky! But there is more at play here than luck. I truly believe with all my there there are times when God steps in and says “I’ve got this”, and something really good happens to me or to someone in my circle of love. Let me submit this recent example and if I am lying I am dying. In fact, the reason I started this blog was to chronicle this stuff as it occurs and this one is a great place to start.
The date was July 1, 2011 and it was a Friday. The Friday before the big three day holiday weekend with the fourth falling on Monday. My wife, in her infinite wisdom, planned a family trip to Florida to visit some friends and she accurately predicted that traffic would be really bad on Friday night, so the Gillans would leave early Saturday morning. The local traffic reports coming over the radio confirmed her keen insight and the roads were a mess, including the one I was on after work when I decided this would be a good time to go pick up my bicycle from the shop. I was having the bike serviced with the full intention of getting into bike riding and as of this writing it is still collecting dust in the garage, but I had some time and no better time than the present to go get the bike. I was driving on a road that all towns have, so the name does not matter, but just think of the road where you live where all the stores are and 99% of the towns traffic lights are located. Yes, that road.
Traffic on this road was no different than any other road on this sultry evening, slow and steady, with an emphasis on slow. The car thermometer danced between double digits and triple digits as I made my way to the bike store, where I was hoping a routine maintenance included a thorough dusting. Some day I will get into riding, just not today. To aid my mood, I was listening to the local Christian station and one of my favorite tunes was playing, Josh Wilson’s I REFUSE, when I drove by a couple stuck in the middle turn lane and it was obvious by the fluid on the road, something was not right. Windows were down and they were sweating profusely as I drove by at a roaring 6 miles per hour, slow enough to see the woman fanning herself in a feeble attempt to stay cool. My thoughts were exactly this—some days it sucks to be me, some days it sucks to be you. But Josh Wilson, author of the above named song, had other ideas and his thoughts we’re captured in the following lyrics that were playing exactly as I drove by these stranded motorists:
I don’t want to live like I don’t care
I don’t want to say another empty prayer
Oh, I refuse to sit around and wait for someone else
To do what God has called me to do myself
I could choose not to move
But I refuse
Thanks for the guilt trip Josh, but I have a bike to pick up and then get ready for a vacation, or do I? I could’t shake the lyrics and the look on that woman’s face, so I reluctantly banged a U-turn and headed back (in more traffic) to the couple. Maybe someone else already stopped and I will mentally get credit. I could even use it when they play my very short highlight reel at the gates of heaven. Do you see St. Peter, I almost helped but someone else was already there. That counts! I approach to see that no one else stopped, so I pulled in front of the couple and walked up to their car, careful not to step in the radiator fluid that was the result of the car overheating or a hose bursting. That last sentence is the extent of my automotive capabilities. I can diagnose an obvious problem, but I cannot fix a thing. That is why there has been a AAA card in my wallet for as long as I can remember and I was prepared to whip it out once again when the driver informed me that he already called AAA and they were waiting for a tow truck. My work here was done, but their sweaty shirts were so hard to avoid and before my brain could think it my lips were saying it, “Do you all want to sit in my car and cool off while we wait?” The woman was already shaking her head no, when the man sat up and opened his door. “That would be great, they should be here any minute,” he said heading toward my running car. Now the lady really had no choice, she had to come, and she wanted to but my gut tells me she is just one of the many people in this world that have a wee bit of trouble accepting help. No trouble giving it, just a slight hesitation in taking it. It might be a female thing, because her husband was already in my back seat by now and I would have done the same thing. She joins us.
Turns out they were/are a really nice couple, but their names escape me. We called AAA from time to time to get a status report on the tow truck, but as can be expected on a Friday night before a big weekend they were busy, yet efficient. They gave us an estimated time of arrival and every time we called back after that time came and went, they would give us an update in a very polite manner. The tow truck finally came and he was only about 40 minutes later than promised, so it wasn’t too bad given the holiday weekend traffic and we enjoyed our time together. The conversation was pleasant and the cool air coming from the air conditioning had us all feeling like we just ate a York Peppermint patty. (Youngsters see the link below for the commercial for this candy that ran in the 70’s and 80’s.)
Before my new friends departed to greet the tow truck operator, the man hands me a twenty dollar bill and says this should help pay for your gas. I politely refuse, and he’s having none of it. Finally he says buy the kids ice cream when you go to Florida. We talked about the trip and his experiences in the great state of Florida and he had me with that line. “Sir, I will do just that, but this is still too much”, I offer. He scoffs and is out the door, thanking me the whole time. Wife does the same and I am alone again, already missing my company, but the unused bike awaits and the shop will soon close. If I don’t pick it up today, that bike could be there for months. I wish I was kidding with that last line.
Hand of God? It’s coming, keep reading.
The Florida trip was one of the best weekends our family ever had, bar none. We stayed with old neighbors from South Carolina, and got to see old neighbors from Illinois. It really doesn’t get any better than that, unless some old neighbors from Carlisle, PA showed up, then that would have been the perfect Gillan neighbor trifecta. We were having such a good time, I forgot all about the ice cream money burning a whole in my pocket. God indirectly reminded me when my wife saw a sign for Dairy Queen on the way home and suggested instead of stopping for dinner, why don’t we just get ice cream. That’s an ideal dinner when you are on vacation and we all agreed, but I was a tad bit hesitant. You see we were making great time and I didn’t want to blow it. I wanted to call the other dad’s when I got home to brag about my driving prowess and post my time with them. Sorry, it’s a man thing, but this request for ice cream reminded me of the money that stranded motorist gave me just days earlier. We had to go. To my wife’s amazement I agree and to DQ it is, and I will make up the time on what was left of I-95 and I-26 to Columbia. I am a guy and that is what guys do—we make good time no matter what the circumstances.
Back in the car and making up for the pit stop, I make quick work of I-95 and we are now on I-26 buzzing towards Columbia, SC in record fashion without flagrantly violating any local speed ordinances, at least none that I will admit on a blog. On an unassuming patch of road I am dismayed to see nothing but brake lights ahead. Dang it, we were doing so good. We are about 9 miles from the exit from route 26 to route 77 and in an area I am not too familiar with. Exit 125 is about twenty yards to our right, and unfortunately I am in the left lane. Now I see a cop is coming up from behind to investigate what is ahead. The situation up ahead must have just happened if the police officer is now just on his way. Fantastic, plus our GPS is broken so if we get off this exit, what next? Decision time. Wise wife to the rescue. “Dennis, your phone has Google Maps on it, just get off this exit and we’ll figure it out on top of the exit. If there is no clear path, we’ll just get back on the highway”, she quickly blurts out. Brilliant idea and before I know it the blinker is on as I cross over the right lane and hit the exit ramp. Another ten feet and there is no way I could get to that exit ramp without using the R on the drive shaft. The smart phone lives up to its name and it shows us that there is a road that runs parallel to the highway for a spell and then it will dump us back on hopefully ahead of what has to be an accident. We take it and it pays off in silver dollars. We are once again making great time!
Where is God in all of this you may ask? Days earlier I meet a guy in a bad spot and I let him borrow some air conditioning. He feels compelled to reward me for really doing nothing and gives me money for ice cream. We stop for ice cream and this sets us back a little on our trip progress. Far enough back to be in a position to find a way around what we learn is a really bad accident. Where would we have been on the highway if we didn’t stop? In front of the accident, still behind it, or right in the middle of it? Who knows? Now it may be a stretch, but go with me here. The “pre-paid” ice cream stop kept us from harms way and allowed my fragile male ego to still think we made good time. Years ago I would have said we just got lucky. I don’t think so. We had a hand. A really big hand.
Respectfully Submitted on July 9, 2011 by Dennis M. Gillan
Josh Wilson: I Refuse http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BbH0IWZL05s
York Peppermint Patty: http://www.flickfilosopher.com/blog/2010/04/watch_it_1980s_york_peppermint.html