As I opened my eyes, the trickle of water startled me fully awake. Then, once I stopped panicking, thinking the pipes had burst, I realized Laurie and I were camping along the Frio River in our little camper. This was the maiden voyage, and we’re hoping to get to know each other all over again, remembering the best vacation we ever took before kids, which was a couple of weeks in a camper.
As we speak I’m in a folding chair outside so I don’t wake Laurie, and the sun is streaming in my eyes as the grackles squawk loudly. The reflections on the water are like a color wheel, and later today it will be warm enough to take a dip and kayak down the river a piece. It’s a joy to have a weekend off and to start our empty-nesting life together.
I’d be lying if I said I was totally disconnected. After all, I still have a cell signal, and hopefully this is still showing up in your inbox.
There is a story floating around the Internet about a young boy who tells his pastor father that he would like to go out and pass out flyers to tell people about how God loves them. It was cold and rainy and his dad didn’t want to go, but since they were in a small town, he allowed his son to go out alone.
The son passed out all but one flyer and was about ready to go home, but he stopped at one more house and knocked, and there was no answer. He knocked again — still no answer. So he walked away. But something made him turn around and knock longer and louder. Soon a frail old woman answered, and the child said he was sorry to interrupt her, but he just wanted to tell her that God loves her and he thought she might like the flyer. She was kind to him, and thanked him.
The following Sunday in church, the pastor asked if anyone wanted to share anything before closing the service, and that old woman said, “Yes, I’d like to.” She had lost her husband, it had been a couple of years, and she was lonely, worn, and tired. She had decided to kill herself, and was ready to go ahead with it when she heard the knock. But the knock went away. So just as she was about to do something that couldn’t be undone, she heard the knock again. She decided it must be important, so she went down to answer the door.
The story goes on to say that from this little angel of a boy, the hope she received gave her a renewed spirit to live. She had appeared in the church for the first time in her life.
When this story arrived in my in-box, I enjoyed it, passed it to some friends, and then started thinking about my own life and the moments where perfect timing occurred. In some cases it was timing to help me, and other times it was the right timing to help others.
A Frightening Day in Business
One day, about 20 years ago, my bookkeeper told me we could not make our payroll that week. We were $18,726.56 short. I asked if anyone owed money we could collect. There was no one. I just knew I was out of business and had to lay people off. Clearly, at that stage of my life I was not very good at planning or managing.
Earlier that week a man named Mike had come to work for us. He had just returned from a church retreat and explained that he learned it was important to pray for specifics. So, I went into my office, worried and tearful, and I asked for help. Exactly $18,726.56. And though I asked, I did not really believe I’d get that help, so I was trying hard to sell what I could and try to collect something in advance.
With only two days to go till payroll, I had no solution and was ready to inform my team that I could not pay them. My receptionist buzzed me that I had a call, and it was a client, Marty, from one of the radio networks. I can remember his words clearly. “Eric, because it’s the end of the year, we have some leftover budget. Can we prepay some ads for next year?” Of course, I said yes, but he did not indicate how much or when it would come. Yet the next day a FedEx arrived with exactly $18,726.56 on the check. The exact amount needed to save our business.
Two people had stepped in on my behalf. Mike, who told me about specifics, and Marty, who called to prepay. That moment strengthened my faith.
When I heard the story about the little boy, my mind flashed to that moment. But it also flashed to several moments when people had said things like, “I can’t believe you called and said that, it was exactly what I needed at this moment.” Or, “You brought me an answer I’ve been struggling with.”
Can You Hear Me Now?
There are some who believe we are all interconnected on almost a cellular level, and that we’re on certain “frequencies” with others. That’s beyond my level of understanding, and I don’t really know what to believe, but I can say that something or someone is connecting many of us.
Probably dozens, maybe hundreds, have connected with me at the perfect time. They have helped me or I have helped them. There were times when I was lonely, sad, depressed, and feeling blue and someone suddenly showed up for no reason at all, pulling me out of it.
You Talkin’ to Me?
When we started the daily broadcasts on Facebook and YouTube, I started hearing from hundreds of people who would say things like, “How did you know I needed to hear that today? You were speaking directly to me.” It happens to Laurie and me all the time. We’ll go to church and think the pastor is targeting us with a tailored message. “How did he know?” we’ll wonder.
I can even say it happens more than ever, which I think is because I’m learning to pay attention to the little tugs, the little tinge of feeling that I need to call someone or visit them.
And like the little boy in the rain, it seems that every time I don’t want to do something and I do it anyway, I never regret it because it turns out to my benefit or that of someone else. Before our recent Fall Color Week, I was so used to being home that it was a struggle to get up at four in the morning to catch an airplane. The night before, I was whining about it because I was experiencing back pain, and I strongly considered asking someone to step in for me. But I sucked it up and went, and the result was that I had several good things happen to me, including invitations into two good galleries and a possible donor for my TV show. But also, in several instances, I was able to help people who had nowhere to turn because of personal tragedy. In each case, I heard something like, “I don’t know what I’d have done if you had not been here for me.”
Though I’ve trained myself to be a planner, I’m very much a pinball, bouncing from one paddle to the next, in response to the callings in my head.
Has this happened to you?
Have you had moments where you were connected at the perfect time with the perfect person with the perfect message?
One of the reasons I encourage silence and thinking time, and not spending your life on small and big screens, is that the quiet helps us tune in. Someone needs you for some reason, and when you get that quiet whisper in your ear or that tinge to call someone, do it.
And if you can’t be troubled because it seems like too much work or inconvenience, do it anyway. It will be a sweeter result because of the sacrifice.
Someone once told me that every adult is a hurting little child inside, and that they may be too tough or macho to speak up. But if you can open up a crack, be there for them, and listen, you might change their life.
How Could This Even Be?
I’ve told the story many times of being stuck in a cab for an hour — and it changed the entire direction of my life forever. Why, on that day, did I lock my keys in the car? Why did I decide to take a two-hour cab ride instead of calling a local locksmith? How was it that the cab driver was in Miami but happened to be from West Palm Beach and able to introduce me to the art instructor who introduced my heart to art?
You may say it was serendipity or coincidence. Maybe. I like to think there was a plan that put me in a vulnerable position, stilled my heart, made me talk to someone I otherwise wouldn’t talk to, and got my attention.
I continually encounter people who it feels were sent to me, as if they were angels on earth. And I’m continually surprised that a random feeling I should call someone results in my being that angel for them. I’m guessing it happens to us all, which I suppose means we are interconnected somehow.
At this time when half the population is frustrated or hurting, and a time when people are worried about COVID and other crazy things in the world, listen for the tinge.