In the 1970s, I wanted to build a small resort in a mountainous coastal area of California. I thought the area was beautiful. I felt it would be good to build a little motel there, maybe with a hamburger-stand/cafe attached to it, and let other people see how wonderful this area - Big Sur - is. I joined forces with some friends, and we built our place, surmounting some rather perilous obstacles. I knew a man who was chairman of one of the world's largest hotel chains. He told me no one would ever come to stay "in the boonies" and pay $30 a night, which was our room rate then. He predicted failure for us. Sure enough, I needed to raise more capital after a while. But we were happily surprised that people kept showing up at our inn - we had stopped calling it a motel by then - and telling us it was beautiful. One magazine wrote, in what summed up my hopes: "[to be there] is to feel spiritually at peace with nature and the environment." No bank wanted to loan us the money we needed. I was introduced to Norton, a rich real-estate investor from New York. Norton said he'd invest the funds we needed. But in return, I had to sign papers that, it turned out, would give him ownership of our hotel if we didn't pay back the money precisely on time. The time to pay him arrived, and we didn't have the full amount. Norton said he was going to take over the hotel if we didn't have the money by the following Monday. It was Friday. I went up to my house overlooking the hotel. I couldn't sleep, so I read. I read all night, in fact, until Saturday morning.
That's when I started hearing things. Now, I'm a practical person in many ways, and I don't hear voices or anything like that. On the other hand, I'd certainly been praying for an answer as to what to do. I positively heard this voice. It kept telling me to drive at once to Santa Barbara, which was about 200 miles south of my home.
"Santa Barbara!?" I yelled to no one: "My hotel is about to be lost, and I'm supposed to drive to Santa Barbara?" I thought I needed to take another nap. But the voice was insistent. By then, I was sure there was someone in my house. I ran downstairs and grabbed a kitchen broom, to protect myself. Then I tiptoed all over the house: upstairs, downstairs, outside.
No one was there. Well, no one I could see. I'm just tired, I thought. I'll take that nap now. But I heard the voice again. It told me not to stop to pack a bag, but to grab a toothbrush, get in my car at once, and go. It really startled me, it seemed so real. But what still startles me, when I think about it, is that I got in my car and drove to Santa Barbara. Why? It just seemed the right thing to do. I knew exactly three people in Santa Barbara: a well-known educator, a big-shot businessman, and a young woman whose name I'd been given by a lady I'd met in Boston the year before. "Look up my pretty niece if you ever go to Santa Barbara," she said to me, and wrote down a telephone number. Since I didn't know the young woman, I thought I'd telephone her before calling on the two big shots I did know. She and her husband invited me to go out for lunch the next day, Sunday.
I remember I ate and ate. She said to me, on my second dessert, "You seem worried. Is everything all right?" I decided at once to tell them the full story. When I was through with my sad tale, she asked me how much I had to raise. It was an impossible fortune, well out of my reach. I saw her look at her husband and smile. A family trust had been retired, she explained, and they were looking for a new investment. The money they had was exactly the several hundred thousand dollars I needed. I ordered another dessert. The next morning, they drove up to my hotel, viewed it at once as a good investment, and at the end of the day wrote me a check. I told Norton he'd be paid off that week, and I could give him a deposit that same day. The hotel was saved, and though it's been very successful all these years - some even call it "famous" now - very few people ever believed my Santa Barbara story, even though it's the truth. ALL of these doubters would ask, however, why I'd grabbed a broom to protect me that day in my house. I said my mother, the shyest person I've ever known, had baked a pie one day while on a visit at my home. Some kind of big forest animal, she told me (I think it was a raccoon), had come to my kitchen door. It must have smelled the pie, which she'd set on the tile steps to cool. "What did you do, Mom?" I'd asked her. "Why, I just grabbed a broom, said 'Shoo!' and smacked him hard. He went away," she replied. A broom? I remember laughing. But when I thought I needed to arm myself, I didn't think of today's grievous weaponry. I remembered what my mother had done and grabbed a broom. I felt safe trusting my mother's advice. It was not unlike listening to, and then obeying, a voice I felt I should trust. It was my mother who originally taught me to do that, too.