Falling, Falling All Around

…the race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.

Ecclesiastes 9:11

I had to run some errands that day. I was really tired and wanted to get it all done, come home to my comfy pajama pants and hot tea, and watch a little Netflix (something I rarely allowed myself to do). That morning, I got caught up in my household to-do list and got a much later start than I wanted.

My first stop was the grocery store and I walked through the aisles on a mission. As I headed to the checkout, I heard a loud thud and a scream. I quickly turned my cart toward the noise and saw an older woman with long hair, a heavy coat, and pink glasses standing in a puddle of water.

“The bottom of the box gave out,” the woman said, embarrassed and fearful someone might be angry with her. She had picked up a 3-pack of spring water and the unsealed bottom of the cardboard box allowed the water jugs to fall to the floor. Two jugs busted on impact, sending a spray of water all over the woman and onto the floor.

“It wasn’t your fault,” I assured her. “Are you alright?”

“I’m okay. Just a little wet,” she said, looking down at her wet pants and shoes. “I shouldn’t have picked them up. I’m going to find someone. Can you wait here so no one slips and falls?”

“Of course,” I said, moving my cart to stand guard at end of the aisle.

I watched the meek, older woman walk to several checkout counters, stand to the side, afraid to interrupt. I wanted to help her get someone’s attention, but I didn’t want to leave my post. I was happy to help, but it was taking a long time. I picked up the empty bottles and tried to set another box of water in the woman’s cart. Thankfully, I noticed the bottom of that box was unsealed too. I picked up another few boxes and found most of them in the same condition.

“I finally got someone’s attention,” I heard the woman say as she walked slowly back to her cart. “They said they would send someone.”

I tried to explain about the unsealed boxes but the woman pointed to her hearing aids. “I am having trouble hearing you,” she said. I thought it best to stay with her until someone arrived. I could tell an employee about the boxes.

“Clean up in aisle four,” I heard over the loudspeaker. The woman did not.

“I don’t want anyone to get hurt,” she said, looking back at all the water.

“Would you like me to put another package of water in your cart?” I asked, twice before she heard me.

“No, I will buy only one gallon. That will be safer for me,” she said grabbing a single gallon off the shelf. We stood guard for another few minutes as customers and store employees walked past us and the pool of water on the floor.

“They said they would send someone,” the woman said, worried. “I don’t know why it is taking so long.” I was wondering the same thing.

“Excuse me,” I said, stopping a young man with floppy hair wearing a store uniform and a bored look on his face. “There is water spilled all over the floor. They called for someone to clean it up, but no one has come yet. We don’t want anyone to get hurt.”

The young man ran his fingers through his hair, looked up the aisle, nodded blankly, then walked away. The woman and I looked at each other and shrugged. Soon after, another employee arrived to place yellow cones around the spill.

“I guess we can go now,” the woman said slowly pushing her cart toward another aisle.

“I guess so,” I said, waving goodbye to the woman and rushed toward the checkout. As I walked out of the store, I noticed the time. Stress stirred in my bones. Defeated, I sighed and silently checked off the things that wouldn’t get done that afternoon.

I pulled into a parking space in front of the post office. As I got out of the car, a gust of wind sliced through my thin sweater. My hands burned cold as I dropped my mother’s mail into the slot in the outside mailbox. As I turned back to cross the street, the wind nipped at my face. I wrapped my sweater around me and put my head down to escape the brutal assault. I walked briskly to the car, but stopped when I noticed something shiny on the ground.

It was a hearing aid, similar to those my mom wore so I recognized what it was right away. I picked it up and looked around. The parking lot was full of cars, but no one was nearby. Another gust of wind came out of nowhere and took my breath away. I held on tightly to the delicate hearing aid and rushed to my car.

I opened the door, jumped inside, and turned up the heat, holding my hands in front of the vents. When I stopped shaking, I inspected the hearing aid. I was surprised there was no damage, considering it had been sitting on the ground.

I wasn’t sure what to do. Take it into the post office? Post it on a community page? Call the post office and ask if someone was looking for it? I still had to pick up my mom’s pills from the pharmacy. I decided to get my errands finished, and then figure out what to do.

I drove across the parking lot to the drive-through pharmacy and was discouraged when I saw three cars already in line. It might have been quicker to go inside, but I didn’t want to step out into the cold again. I waited my turn. Again, I sat longer than planned. Time wasted.

Once I had mom’s pills in hand, I called the post office to ask if someone had reported a lost hearing aid. Of course, the post office number was a 1-800 number, and there was no way to talk to a live person. Ugh. I guess I was going to have to drive back there, but I had ice cream in the car and needed to go home first. I unloaded the groceries and asked mom if she wanted to ride along and grab lunch. If she didn’t want to go, then maybe I would wait until tomorrow to drop it off at the post office.

“Why not?” Mom accepted my invitation. “I will meet you downstairs.”

I pulled my winter coat and gloves out of the closet. I wasn’t going back into that cold in my thin sweater. As I waited for mom, I noticed the time. If I hadn’t been right there when the woman spilled the water, if I hadn’t been stuck behind three cars at the pharmacy, if I hadn’t found a hearing aid, I would be slipping into my pajama pants and cuddling up on the couch with a blanket and a mug of hot tea.

“Why am I doing this?” I thought. “Why am I going through all this trouble?”

But it was the right thing to do. My lazy afternoon would have to be postponed.

The parking lot was crowded. Of course, it was, I thought. I drove around a few times until I found a parking space. I told mom to wait in the car and stay warm. I would quickly give the postal worker the hearing aid and we could be on our way.

“I’ll be right back,” I said to mom as I stepped out of the car. The cold wind met me right away. I closed my eyes, thankful to be bundled in a winter coat. I hurried to the post office and opened the door.

My heart sank as I saw the long line inside. It was the holidays after all. I didn’t need to mail a package or buy any stamps, but I couldn’t cut in front of all those people. I patiently waited while no less than 10 people completed their transactions before me.

Seriously? I was trying to do a good thing. I could have walked by that hearing aid. I could have thrown it away. I could have decided because of my busy day and the cold temperature that I would take care of it tomorrow. But no, here I was standing in a long line to give a lost item to a worker, not knowing if the rightful owner would ever come there to find it. The chances were slim.

Still, it was the right thing to do. So I waited. And waited some more.

Finally, it was my turn. I approached the counter, hearing aid in hand, and explained what it was and where I found it.

“Oh, dear. Thank you for bringing it in,” the friendly postal worker said, “I hope they come back looking for it.”

“Me too,” I said, turning to leave. The line had grown longer since I arrived. I smiled an empathetic smile at the customers with their armfuls of packages. They were going to be there a long time too.

I stood for a moment at the door before I walked outside, dreading the blast of cold air I knew was coming. A car stopped to let me cross and I quickly ran, head down, back to the car.

“Sorry that took so long,” I said to mom as I got into the warm car. I rubbed my hands in front of the vents and turned to look behind me. I waited for two cars to back out and an older gentlemen wearing a flannel jacket and a green ball cap to walk to his car. When it was clear, I started to reverse then noticed the man still walking.

Was he lost? Did he forget where he parked? I slowly backed up, keeping an eye on him.

Then it hit me. Was he looking for something?

“I wonder if he is looking for a hearing aid? Wouldn’t that be perfect?” I said to mom.

We watched him weave through the parking lot, head down, clearly searching for something. Mom rolled down her window to call to him, but a driver was waiting for my spot and growing impatient. I told mom to keep an eye out for the green ball cap as I drove around to the next lane. I pulled into a space at the bottom of the row and jumped out of the car.

“Sir?’ I yelled, waving as I ran toward him. “Are you looking for something?”

“Yes,” he said. “I lost my hearing aid. I was hoping I might get lucky and find it.”

“I found it!,” I said excitedly. “I just took it into the post office.”

“Really?” he asked, the relief evident on his face red from the cold.

“The post office?” he asked, turning his head that direction. “Thank you so much. It fell right out of my ear. I was worried I wouldn’t find it. Thank you, and Merry Christmas to you!”

He smiled, waved, and turned quickly toward the post office.

“Merry Christmas,” I called after him. He smiled and waved again.

As I turned around to walk back to my car, it all became clear.

The lady at the grocery store. The time it took for someone to come help. The long wait at the pharmacy. The cold wind that kept me inside the car. The 1-800 number. The melting ice cream. Mom accepting my lunch date. The long line in the post office.

All of it put me at the right place at the right time.

If I had been in that parking lot earlier, I may not have seen the hearing aid. Any later, it could have been run over by a car and damaged. If I hadn’t gotten stuck at the pharmacy, if I got through to the post office, if mom didn’t want to go to lunch, if I hadn’t been too nervous to jump the long line at the post office —

Would I have been in that parking lot at the right time to notice the man walking in the cold looking for it?

A coincidence, a lucky circumstance, serendipity?

No, that was all God, putting me in the right place at the right time.

God knew I would stop to help the older woman in the grocery store even though I was in a hurry. He knew I would make sure she was taken care of before I left. He sent the cold wind to cut through me so I wouldn’t take the hearing aid to the post office right away. He placed the car at the pharmacy and all those customers in front of me at the post office. If anything happened any other way that day, I wouldn’t have seen that man wearing the green ball cap in the parking lot.

And who knows the circumstances on his end, how many twists and turns put him in that parking lot at just the right time?

It wasn’t until evening that I was able to sit on the couch with a blanket and a cup of hot tea. No Netflix, though. Instead, I reflected on the happenings of my day. I was tired yet grateful, warm and unhurried. I was many things.

Humbled. Awestruck. Blessed.

Every morning I prayed for God to use me as a vessel for His good. Out of all the people out and about on that busy day, He placed me in that grocery aisle, in that parking lot, and in those long lines for a reason. He interrupted my plans and through my impatience and discomfort, He led me right where I needed to be.

How honored to be chosen for the task.

God was in the details. The boxes unsealed. The gallon jugs falling. Splashing, but not harming. The cold wind forcing my head to the ground, leading my eyes to that small device. The long lines stalling me for just the right amount of time to place me where I needed to be.

Awestruck by the intricacy of His plans.

It was a blessing to help others, to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Blessing people didn’t have to be a missions trip to the other side of the world. Blessing people didn’t require an organized community effort. Blessing people happened in the every day too. Family, friends, strangers. Blessing people meant many things. Gestures unnoticed were often blessings most meaningful.

How amazing it was that when we helped others, we were blessed by the blessing.

People spoke of miracles yet limited their meaning, overlooking the small parts for the leads. Miracles weren’t only healing from disease, protection from disaster, or sudden solutions to enormous problems. Miracles happened every day, in a million little ways. They happened right in front of us yet we still missed them when they weren’t big enough, when they didn’t sparkle, when they didn’t catch our eyes or in our hearts.

Sometimes we did see them, but not for what they were.

That’s crazy how that happened…

I was shocked it worked out the way it did ..

The idea just came to me, out of nowhere…

I didn’t think I had the strength to do that

We didn’t recognize those happenings as miracles. When we failed to see the miracles, we failed to give the glory to God. We minimized His power, His presence, His plan. When we didn’t recognize God’s power in the everyday, we mistakenly took the credit. So snarled in our days. Swept up in our busy.

He was and is everywhere. In every thing. In the minutia of our days. In the grocery store aisles and the parking lots and the cold gusts of wind that took our breath. In the long lines and the unsealed boxes and the messy spills. In our impatience and our hurry and our need to check things off, we became the clog in the drain, the spike in the road; but God still dropped miracles from heaven like steady snow.

Falling, falling all around.

The wonder of it came down to kiss our noses and caress our cheeks. Miracle upon miracle landed in our mittens. We still didn’t see them, the flakes for the drifts. We grabbed our shovels and forged a path, determined not to allow our plans interrupted. We didn’t need shovels, though; only to strap on our shoes and walk the path He provided, the path blanketed in peace and tiny miracles. If only we opened our eyes in the quiet of the falling flakes and really saw them.

There, right in front of us…

Miracles all around.

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