“Asian Pacific Picnic, here I come!”
I’d been waiting for this event for about a month. Not only would I reconnect with the international community I so missed from my travels, this would also give me an opportunity to network for the Asian Cultures class. I planned to find speakers and interview subjects to interact with my students at Mercyhurst College.
The picnic started at noon. Dressed and ready to go at 10 am, I drummed my fingers on the table and read the flyer again. Then I placed my jelly cookies on a paper plate. I willed the hands of the clock to move ahead. Finally, the time arrived…but my ride didn’t!
“Be patient,” I scolded myself, “she’ll be here soon.” But that didn’t happen until about 2 pm.
The phone rang. “I’m on my way,” my friend Brenda promised.
“Oh sure! No problem.” Did I sound cheery enough? She had volunteered to drive me, after all. We still had a couple of hours left. I had till 4 pm.
“We just need to make one stop.” What??
I gritted my teeth and nodded. Still time…
I calculated. It would take thirty minutes to get to the beach from home even without an extra stop…
We finally arrived at the Peninsula. I tried to keep my voice nonchalant, “So where is Beach 11?”
“Amy, I’m not sure, but we’ll find it.”
We drove and drove, and as the minutes ticked by, my chest felt tighter and tighter.
Ten minutes passed. Tick! Tick!
“Amy, how about if we get out here and ask? There’s a First Aid Station. You go ask those picnickers and I’ll ask at the station.”
Barefooted, she made her way over the gravel to a building. What happened to her shoes?! We are never going to make it! I still held the plate of cookies in my hand. The jelly cookies stuck to the cling wrap now.
The picnickers I asked shrugged. “It’s way back there. We are between Beach 6 and 7.”
I gulped. That could be miles! Oh Lord, help us make it! Where is Brenda?!
Brenda tiptoed across the parking area, “I guess it’s back a ways,” She made a face.
I couldn’t help myself, “I’ve been looking forward to this forever and–”
She interrupted, “Okay, I don’t have any shoes. You go and try to make it.” Brenda pushed me toward the sidewalk, “GO!”
“What? No, let’s stay together!”
“I hate to say this but not only did I not bring any shoes. I will only slow us down. I’m also outta gas. You give me money for gas ‘n–”
The urge to slap Brenda came over me.
Let’s get this straight. I’m half-blind. I forgot my cane. And you expect me to go walking miles—by myself—carrying this delicate plate of jelly cookies to try to find Beach 11 and a disbanded picnic?!
“Go!” she urged. “No, wait! First. Money–”
I glared daggers. She appeared not to notice. At an impasse, I reached into my pocket and took out a five-dollar-bill.
“Okay, now. Go!” She gave me a shove.
She rushed–as much as a barefooted gal could rush on a sun-scorched pavement–to her car to get gas. I marched in the opposite direction.
Smoldering anger consumed me.
I marched faster.
Bam! Walked right into a big tree branch. The low-lying leaves slapped me. Slapped me silly, they did! I tried to battle my way back to sunlight.
I raised one hand to rub my forehead and bumped my other hand; the plate of cookies tipped forward. I dashed to save them. Boom! I fell! My right foot landed on the plate. Smoosh!
I fell silent contemplating this new disaster. All the sudden the humor snuck through and I began to laugh. A laugh that hurt my stomach.
Every time I get myself into these situations, I am carrying something ridiculous!
I recalled as a new faculty member at our college in the Middle East, I earned the privilege of traveling to Abu Dhabi to shake the hand of royalty, the Sheikh of the United Arab Emirates. Talk about BIG! He founded the country! That day I clutched, not a plate of cookies, but an over-sized purse to my side. I couldn’t figure out what to do with it when I got ready to shake the hand of His Excellency. As I worried about that gigantic purse slugging the Sheikh in the stomach and knocking the wind out of him, the actual moment arrived. Unaware, I marched right past the Sheikh! My college director gasped, “Whoa, Amy!” He turned me around and guided me back to that important man to shake his hand.
I tried not to smile as I marched and clutched my bent plate of smooshed cookies, and marched some more.
Purses. Cookies. Coats. I always carried something.
Now I know. When I get angry, I march.
This made me smile again. A vision of me, the very-much out-of-step (read: nonathletic) homeroom teacher trying to guide a bunch of equally uncoordinated Colombian third graders in a marching competition around the playground came to mind. If they could only see me now! Give me a little anger and see how high I step!
But as I marched to Beach 11, the insanity of my predicament struck me and my anger slipped away.
“Oh God, thank you for the sunshine today! Thank you for sturdy shoes, two good feet to walk with, and yes, for trees to slap the silly into me. I even thank you for my limited vision, ‘cuz God I sure didn’t see this day coming! But I still get through these situations.” I giggled again.
A jogger passed me. I called out to him, “What time is it?”
“4:30” he shouted.
“Whoa, Lord! How can I turn back the time?!” Who can I ever meet now? How did we get so lost? And how crazy that
Brenda didn’t wear shoes … and how could she run out of gas, take my money and make me walk? On. My. Big. Asian. Friendship. Day.
I wanted to feel injustice.
But…truly, the laughter kept bubbling out of me.
Okay, this is going to have to be a God-thing. If you want me to have a speaker for the class, You are gonna have to arrange it.
Beep-beep! I looked up to see Brenda at the wheel. The horns she’d grown dissolved. Instead, I saw only my close friend who’d pitched in to take me to my picnic as soon as I mentioned it.
“Are we too late?”
I nodded. “Yeah, I think so. Let’s head home, chick!”
Five weeks later. “Class, I’d like you to meet our guest speaker from India. Please give her a big Mercyhurst welcome!”
Thank you, God. You not only share a laugh or two with me through my frequent and absurd calamities, You use them to purposefully turn me toward You. This way, I can’t miss Your hand in my life. Blind or not, I can still see You clearly. And You always have the right connections.