The directions to and from the place where Larry was going to work were simple. They were: right, left, left, left. Larry is meticulous, and his directions were well thought out and direct.
But I wasn’t really listening.
We were in the Hill Country, and the two days I would be driving him to work would always be enjoyable drives, no matter how many turns and how many dirt roads: I was on vacation!
So the first morning I dropped Larry off, I pulled out of the parking lot, and, took off. Hill Country here I come!
But at the end of the driveway, and out on the road for a couple seconds... Lost. Was I on the right road?
Barely out of the company driveway! Five minutes — five seconds maybe! — and I didn’t know if I’d made the correct turn. So I consulted my GPS and typed in our hotel. There was a time when we didn’t have that luxury, I thought. Getting lost was frightening, especially when it involved unfamiliar dirt roads, and possibly getting in trouble with Dad.
But this was easy. I re-started, found my way back to the right road, and back to the hotel.
I hadn’t been listening when Larry gave me directions, I admit now. And I know in other identical situations I will probably repeat that. My mind will wander, or I will presume a miracle will get me where I’m going.
Often in our lives we take the wrong turns. Does it make a difference? Sure. Especially when the choices are big ones. But it is the ways we travel the wrong roads that shape our lives.
That morning I found a McDonald’s near our hotel, and went in. There were four or five people ahead of me, and when I got to the counter I asked, “Do you still have yogurt parfaits?” The cashier said they did, so I ordered one.
I paid my $1.80, then stood and watched. Everyone had numbers. There were 56, 57, 58 and my number was 59, so I thought I’d have to wait a while for them to call it. But very soon an employee walked out from behind the counter. He had a little bag in his hand, walked all the way out, handed it to me and said, “Here’s your yogurt parfait.”
Fascinating, I thought., “I was lost on the road — in fact I am usually lost. But in this particular McDonald’s in Kerrville, I am not lost; they seem to know me. Otherwise, why would he know I was the one who ordered the fruit and yogurt parfait?”
I hadn’t done anything noteworthy, or even clumsy, although usually I do that. I hadn’t dropped my purse or spilled change. All I had done was to say, “Do you still have those yogurt things?”
Maybe yogurt parfaits weren’t chic anymore. Now that I think about it, they aren’t made of organic fruit, with yogurt made from grass-fed CreamLine milk. Maybe others are too haughty for yogurt parfaits, so they remembered me because I wasn’t.
We all want to be special in some way, though, and that day in the Kerrville McDonald’s, I felt I was. I could say it this way: I was on the wrong road for a while, struggled to find my way, and made it to McDonald’s. They welcomed me.
Is that the way it will be in Heaven? Maybe. I hope we find everyone and everything we love. McDonald’s yogurt? Maybe.
Entering our hotel that morning, I stopped for a bagel to go with my yogurt, got one, put it in the toaster, and all was fine. Or so it seemed.
But I had put it in the wrong side of the toaster, on top of another woman’s English muffin. Half her muffin was fraternizing with my bagel. Luckily my nails are long, so I reached in, pulling out my bagel. I apologized. She thought I was bonkers.
I finished off my breakfast with cranberry juice, which I carried in my left hand, along with the key card for our room. I approached the elevator, but the phone rang, so I stopped to answer it, balancing my plate and bagel in one hand, my juice and key in the other, talking to Larry with my ear pressed against my shoulder.
Predictably I dropped my key card, bent to get it, swayed, and splattered cranberry juice, that went trailing down the wall and over the “up” button of the elevator.
“Okay,” I said to myself. “You’ve been in the hotel four minutes and already have to wash the walls.”
I dashed back to the food place where I’d already embarrassed myself by throwing my bagel in with a stranger’s muffin. I speedily grabbed a handful of napkins to clean the wall, the floor and the elevator’s “up” button.
Then, with my food carefully balanced, I got in the elevator, heading for our room. Standing in the elevator, I chastised myself. “What a morning! First you lose your way, you return to the hotel, where you make a handful of silly, avoidable mistakes before breakfast! You are such a fool,” I think.
“But don’t forget,” I remind myself. “They like me at McDonald’s.”
I relax then, push “up,” and the elevator begins closing its doors. They move slowly together, and meet in front of me, where, exactly at eye level, in tiny handwriting, I read, “I love you.”
Was the writing just graffiti? Probably. But after my morning, I chose to accept it as a message from God: “You’re okay. And I, Myself, love you.”
I looked to heaven at the place I thought He was, and said, “Thank you. Please guide me. Let me find your ways, and someday return to you.”
“Will you be wanting a yogurt parfait?” I imagined God replying. And I smiled.
Copyright © 2012 by North Texas Catholic