One of my New Year’s resolutions this year was to write more. I was going to write every day for at least 30 minutes, and I was going to publish to a blog weekly, or at least bi-weekly. Definitely I could blog monthly. I don’t know why I resolved to do this, and I don’t know what to write about. But I said I would so I will. So today I thought I would tell you a story.
I wouldn’t call myself a religious person. I didn’t grow up in church, which I don’t think is necessarily a bad thing, because what I know of God I know from personal experience. I’ve read some books, talked with different people, watched some television programs, and filled in the blanks with some ideas of my own. I definitely believe in God (the universe, Source, intention, whatever you call it, to me it is God), and I do believe that He will throw you a bone occasionally, and I appreciate that very much. So that’s what this story is about.
Every year around late January/early February I go through an existential crisis. The passing of another year… Have I achieved my goals? I never really made any goals. Am I just so jaded now that I don’t even set goals anymore? I feel as if I’m just going through the motions of life.
And every year about this time I have the same prayer, “God please help me! I don’t know what to do with my life!” It’s pretty vague and non-specific, I know. But I also know that it is heard, and this story tells how I know.
So I’ll get on with it already.
The day of this epiphany was pretty nondescript. A chilly, overcast February day. I had my children, the oldest aged three and the baby three months, bundled into the car headed to my mom’s house for dinner. We stopped at a gas station, and as we pulled in I saw a lady just kind of wandering around the parking lot. She was an older lady, african-american, dressed in all black except the collar of her dress was white. It looked to me like a priest’s collar, so I surmised that this was some kind of religious outfit. (Please pardon my lack of knowledge of religious rituals and outfits. I already told you I was a heathen.) Anyway, I took note of her, then dismissed her and got to the business of pumping my gas. That’s when she snuck up on me.
I’m standing at the gas pump, and this woman approaches me. I think she’s about to ask me for money, which I don’t have, so I try to avoid making eye contact. Then she speaks. “I know you don’t know me, but will you take me to church?”
Immediately I’m torn. I have my children in the car. I know that it is not a wise idea to pick up strangers, but I also had the feeling that if I was to go to hell for anything I’ve ever done, it would be for not taking this little old woman to church. Somewhat reluctantly I agreed and she got in the car. She started talking as soon as she got in, and didn’t stop. At all. Until she got out.
“You know, God told me to ask you.” That explains how she ended up in my car. She went on to tell me how her friend was supposed to meet her at the gas station, but she hadn’t been able to reach her, so that’s why she needed a ride. She was such a prolific talker I can’t even remember everything she talked about, but I know that some of her words were meant just for me. Because out of the flood of words spilling out of her mouth, these bits of wisdom floated to the top, and they have stuck with me ever since.
“You know, that’s when people get in trouble, when they think they know better than God what they should do. Just be happy and do good where you are, and God’ll move you.”
That was it. That was the answer to my prayer. Just be happy and do good where you are.
We arrived at her church, we said good bye and she got out of the car. I drove on to my mom’s house contemplating all that she had said and what it meant for me. Get your ego out of the way. Stop worrying so much. Just be happy and do good where you are and God’ll move you. So simple, and yet so profound.
This chance meeting took place four years ago, but her advice still resonates with me. Whenever I have my little crises I remember her words. Whenever I’m struggling I tell myself, “Just be happy and do good.”, and somehow everything falls into place. It reminds me of the quote by Thich Nhat Hanh, “There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way.” It is a universal truth.
Hopefully if you’re reading this, her words will be helpful to you, too, wherever you are along your spiritual path.