God sure has a sense of humor.
A friend of mine teased me this morning about the positive spin I try to put on more difficult situations. I texted back, “Challenges are just opportunities in disguise. And I like opportunities.” A few minutes later, I pulled into the parking lot at the lake, where I was planning to spend a relaxing afternoon finishing up a good book.
A car pulled in right next to me, and I noticed the fellow putting on a hat. “That’s smart,” I thought. “I wish I had brought a hat.” A moment later, I realized that I actually knew the individual wearing the hat. He’s a good guy, but is someone who gives me, well, many opportunities for patience, and today, I was really hoping to just read. I’m a bit ashamed to admit this, but I tried to hop out of my car and make it down the path before he got out of his car and saw me. I winced as I heard my name called out from behind me.
“What are you doing here?” he asked. I gestured to the book in my hand, and returned the question. Apparently, he was there to study. Not seeing a graceful way out of it, I invited him to sit with me.
As I made my way down to the lake (he was going to use the restroom and then join me), I took a moment to center myself. I couldn’t help but laugh. Challenges are opportunities in disguise, right? I spoke aloud to God, with the trees and lizards listening. “All right, dude, this is all you. I’m open to whatever you need me to do this afternoon – you just guide me along.” At that moment, I tried to surrender my plan for the afternoon to whatever he had in mind instead.
He joined me shortly, and we did a little bit of chitchat before turning to our respective books. Eventually, a man walked by with his young daughter and paused to look out at the lake. I had finished my book about two minutes ago and was processing it. It’s a great book about making moments every day and living life with intention. The author is very adamant about the idea of “making moments” – creating connections and experiences that otherwise would never materialize.
“Well, self, no time like the present to give this a try,” I thought. So I said, simply, “Hi there.”
The man responded and thus began a long conversation that wove in and out of the weather, life in our city, fishing, kayaking, sailing, and more. It eventually turned to personal training, which is the field my friend is trying to get into, and it just so happened that Brad, our new acquaintance, was a professional body building coach. Those two began talking back and forth animatedly, and I noticed the little girl getting bored, so we started chatting. Ayalla is a sweet nine-year-old who is nervous about the EOG exams coming up, draws up a storm (jungles, flowers, and houses are her favorites), is immensely excited about her upcoming vacation to Disney World, and loves hand games. You know, those sing-song-y things where you clap your hands against each other in a set pattern. I taught her one, she taught me another one, and we had a great time before she and her dad left.
My friend and I went back to our bench and just sat there, looking at the lake before us and feeling the wind brush against our skin. We started talking and actually had a solid conversation. I know he’s trying to figure out a lot right now, both professionally and personally, and I mentally nudged God. “Please give me the words you want this person to hear right now,” I prayed. I tried to listen both to what he was saying and what went unsaid, and hoped that whatever I asked and responded were helping. At the very least, he wrote down the book I recommended he read to help him sort through some of his questions.
Eventually, we went our separate ways. I’m not sure what the odds of both of us going to the same place at literally the exact same time are, but I would warrant it’s a number pretty darn close to zero. I also think the framing of something is so important, and I had just framed that entire exchange because of the text I had sent my friend. Had that thought not been so fresh on my mind, would I have approached the afternoon in the same way? I don’t know.
Some people would say this is all one funny coincidence, but I disagree. I do believe in coincidences, but I don’t think today falls into that category. I’ve seen so often the way that seemingly unconnected pieces come together and the beautiful things that can result from that. I’ll probably never know what impact, if any, this afternoon had on my friend, and I’m okay with that. For me, in this moment, I’m good with just knowing that today, we created a moment that would have otherwise passed us by.