$12.40 of Beauty

Simon Cowell may say I'm being indulgent. Matthew Inman could draw a cartoon questioning my stability and embellishing my imagination. Quite a few of my friends would simply call it coincidence. But what others may say in their own judgement (and that is their right) has no bearing on what I felt happen today, and it doesn't make it any less meaningful to me. Today, I got a glimpse of God at work.

I believe God works in our daily lives whether or not we pay attention or believe it to be true. For me, this afternoon, it became strikingly obvious because of a series of out-of-the-pattern events.

A) I wasn't sure I was going to town today; the errands I had to run could've waited. B) I was planning my route to the post office (visually thinking of the best route from my pharmacy) and I was driving on auto pilot. I was so confident in my path that I allowed myself to start counting the number of Subaru Outbacks on the road with me (six in two minutes!). C) I rarely carry cash, and if I do have it, it's typically less than $10. In fact, earlier this morning I tipped my wallet, spilling several coins that ended up in my coin jar at home. D) My tank was low, but I could have easily waited another week to fuel up. However, I spontaneously aborted all previous plans and traffic patterns to make a last-minute, near-swerve, decision to pull in to the gas station.

I went through my routine for filling up (credit card, no receipt, mid-grade fuel) and was pleased to see the bill was no longer fifty bucks as it was last summer. Just as I was removing the nozzle from my car, a pickup truck pulled in quickly at the opposite pump. I noticed him and thought immediately, Why isn't he shutting off his engine? Doesn't he know that's not safe?

"Excuse me, miss? (He's talking to me!) I don't think my blood pressure could get any higher (Is he having a medical emergency?) but I have to ask. I'm trying to get into the Motel 6 with my two dogs (Does he need directions? I wonder if I know where the motel is...) and I was wondering if you could spare exactly twelve dollars and forty cents? (That's a strange amount... is he for real?) I'm only short that small amount."

Smiling, and a bit wary, "Let me see if I have any cash." I peek over at the back of his truck and see the two dog crates, but they're silent. A small part of my brain, even though I live in a pretty safe town, is making sure he's not trying to trick me into turning my back. I quietly open the passenger door to access my purse (still alert and listening for danger) and he continues to say, "I guess my sob story is, in case you're wondering, that my tumbler (Is that an auto part?) went out on my truck so I can't turn off my engine." My mental defenses are beginning to lower and disappear, and all the while my body is totally cooperating with this guy's request. I've found my cash - exactly $12 and now am frantically searching my change cup that is mostly pennies (I can't give him pennies!) for two quarters. At last I have what I need and turn back to the slightly-older-than-me man. In that moment I see him, not as a stranger to be afraid of, but as a fellow human in need of kindness and generosity. My body relaxes and my mind is calmed.

I wish I could have slowed down this transaction, to hear more of his story and make a connection. But I realize now that's not what he needed. It was late on a Friday afternoon. He needed to check in at his hotel and find a repair shop for his truck. He had probably used quite a bit of time already at his first attempt to get into his room (Does Motel 6 charge extra for pets? $12.40 extra?). This is meant to be a short exchange.

"It turns out I have exactly $12 and here's 50 cents," (visible shock and relief on his face) as I hand over the money, "God bless you." He looks at me, half in wonder, hand on his heart, "You too."

God did bless me. He put me in the path of this gentleman who needed help. He allowed me to witness and experience humanity at it's best. And He filled me with gratitude for the gift I was able to give. I suppose if I hadn't gone to town or made that last-second turn to get gas, maybe it would have been someone else. But then again, maybe not. That kind of thinking gets us into the infinite What-Ifs that can overwhelm a person and dim the reality of What Is. By focusing on the actual choice selected and the resulting actions, as opposed to pointing out all the other non-choices that could have led to different events (quite a distraction, I think), one can truly live for the moment, see it's beauty, and be thankful. And it doesn't matter what religion you identify with or what the opinion of others may be. The $12.40 was worth it.

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