I pulled right over when a blue-plastic water keg toppled off the bed of the truck just ahead. I watched the keg roll to the verge, undamaged. The driver sped on unaware, but I had a use for that nicely contained spill. Not two hours before, our household utilities had been shut off while major, unexpected repairs were made to buried pipelines. A five-gallon jug of purified drinking water would tide us over nicely.
Uncanny coincidence? Maybe, but I have long since stopped questioning why, when something goes wrong for me, something else comes right on its heels - like a bolt out of the blue - to at least partway compensate. The silver linings to life's dark cloudlets materialize before I even have a chance to feel decently sorry for myself.
Certainly no one else does.
Many years ago, I told my brother, Dave, a bad-news/good-news story that amounted to one too many for him. I was driving on a highway in northern England toward the Lake District to visit friends when a sizable pebble from a passing gravel truck flew into my windshield. It shattered completely, and I managed to pull over to the shoulder.
So far, so good, in Dave's eyes. What he couldn't handle was my postscript: Not five minutes later, as I pondered how far I would need to walk for assistance, a truck pulled over with a shipment of brand-new, gleaming windshields, one of which proved to be a perfect fit. The fellow who sold it to me didn't even charge to install it, and I was back on the road in minutes.
Dave's comment on this saga was clipped: "Only you."
Read: Any normal human being - himself, for instance - would have suffered frustrating hours of delay at best.
It was not the first time that such deliverance had come to me in my travels. As a graduate student, I drove from Illinois to the Florida Keys to study a suite of exposed reef rocks for my thesis.
I was "doing geology," and I was excited about starting my first, solo field work. Just after arriving in Miami, however, I heard a muffled bang, and then the unmistakable thump-thump-thump of a flat tire. Slowing to a stop in front of a trim little residence, I assessed the damage. The tire was not only flat, but blown to bits, and I lacked a spare. There was nothing to do but walk up to the house and ask to use the phone. I knocked, and - lo and behold - an auto mechanic, still in his greasy overalls from the day's work, stood before me.
"Oh, never mind the phone," he offered. "I'll get that tire changed for you before I get out of these." He did just that, refusing all offers of payment, even for the retread he rolled out from his garage.
It is not just the fact that strange people kindly help me in such situations; that happens to all of us. It is my timing and perfect placement when I'm in need that get David's goat. It's the thought that I haven't adequately sampled life's tedious inconveniences. Instead, like an annoying little round-bottomed boat, I cruise right around obstacles, rarely scraping bottom or tasting salt.
My brother probably is not ready to hear about the water bottle falling practically into my lap when my faucets were dry, or my recent good fortune (at a financially tight time) in finding that crumpled bill in the pocket of a thrift-store buy. Pleasure in a sibling's good fortune can wear thin after a few decades.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society