Entertaining angels unawares
I know. You think I'm about to riff about the magic of the season-holiday joy and presents and family and all that...
I'm checking in to share a story. I'll try to keep it brief; I know you're busy. Just skim it if you need to--there's an interesting upshot at the end, so stay with it if you can.
So the plan was to get my back-to-college-after-Thanksgiving daughter within easy range of Boston. We zeroed in on getting her to the New Britain, Connecticut bus station, with her transferring in Hartford and then arriving in Boston not too late in the evening.
The trip from where we live would be every bit of six hours to our destination in Connecticut. No problem. I can do that. So what if I just picked her up in Hartford a few days before...It's what you do for your kids, right?
Did I mention I've never been to New Britain, Connecticut? Well I haven't. Ever.
Of course that didn't stop me. I often have an alarming amount of confidence in situations like this, and I'm not even sure why. But that's another post for another time.
So as we're driving, she uses her smart phone to purchase a ticket. A sigh of disgust followed the completion of the sale.
"What?" I asked. "What is it?"
She slumped in the passenger seat.
"We have to pick the ticket up at a place called 'Jimmy's Smoke Shop'," she said her eyes drifting out the window. "That's not a good sign."
I couldn't help but laugh. I assure her it's no big whoop--people travel by bus all the time and arrive safe and sound. But she'd have none of it.
"I know this is not gonna work," she said, wringing her hands. "I'll miss my transfer and get stuck in Hartford and then what?"
My mind started racing.
How will this kid--okay, nearly an adult but still...How will she manage a bus station in a city she doesn't know? A million scenarios--none of them good-fly through my mind.
"Well, let's see how it goes," I say, a little too vaguely.
We arrived in New Britain to find that we were more than likely in the very worst part of town. No surprise there, though is there? When was the last time you saw a bus depot in a "good" part of town?
We picked up her ticket at "Jimmy's Smoke Shop" and headed to find a coffee shop. Her bus wasn't due in for at least 90 minutes, so we had some time.
I tried to use that time together to build up her confidence that all would work out--the bus would arrive, the transfer would be successful and she'd be back in Boston before too late. No problemo.
She looked doubtful despite my encouragement. And, I have to admit, I had my own doubts if for no other reason than the sketchiness of the neighborhood.
But I made an effort to pay attention to feelings other than fear and worry. Something very quiet but distinct kept murmuring "It's okay. This is fine. Just relax."
The scheduled arrival time of the bus came and went, and no bus appeared. So we waited on the street as night fell.
And the neighborhood wasn't looking any better at night.
A couple wandered up with what appeared to be their own college-aged daughter. She was bright and bouncy-brimming with confidence and verve. We stood near one another but didn't really converse.
Although the bus was due at 5:15 p.m., by 5:35 p.m., it hadn't arrived. Well, a bus DID arrive, but it dropped a man off and then quickly left.
What? What the...?
So we--all five of us--huddled out of necessity to discuss the situation.
"We can take your daughter to Hartford," said the college-aged stranger. "We'll both catch the bus there."
So please remember, I've never seen these people before in my life. They are, in my book, the most alarming of land creatures--they are strangers.
I don't even know what to think at that moment. Can this be real? These people are offering to take my daughter, in their car, to catch the next bus? People I doubt I'll ever see again. This reeks of danger on the human level. It flies in the face of everything we tell our children about strangers and free rides and all that.
But somehow, it felt divine too.
So I make purposeful eye contact with my daughter.
"What do you think?" I ask.
"Yes, it's fine," she says, suddenly looking very confident even as my own assuredness is wilting.
"Ya sure?" I ask again.
"Yep, I'm sure," she says and puts her bags in their car and flashes me a calm smile. "I'm good, Mom."
I thank the couple and their daughter and walk to my car wondering what had just happened. I feel concerned, for sure, but also deeply relieved. Somehow, it's clear these people showed up to help. In kindness. In love. And in compassion for our similar plight.
And it hits me that it was all so counter intuitive. Everything in my body had been on high alert because of the neighborhood, and yet extraordinary kindness prevailed. Despite appearances. This space wasn't what I thought it was; it wasn't what it appeared on the surface. It was instead a place ripe with serendipity and generous souls.
And all I had to do was trust.
And thanks for the reminder. It comes at a perfect time.
Here's wishing you and your loved ones a wonderful holiday season. Full of startling coincidences, counter intuitive moments and regular reminders of the goodness and kindness that prevails.
personal development and Equus coach, former Penn State journalism instructor and professional writer.