I mentioned in a previous post that this week I have been on a working retreat near a wetlands area where I’m getting caught up on lots of computer tasks (like writing blog posts!)
There’s a little truck stop cafe across the street from the modest hotel where I’m staying and I’ve gone there for a few of my meals when I’ve grown tired of the snacks I brought with me. The food there is nothing special but it’s convenient, hearty and satisfying – exactly what a trucker or traveler might hope for in a meal on the road.
Mostly I’ve enjoyed mingling with my fellow diners at this little cafe. I feel comfortable here around these solid, down-to earth, hard-working people who stop in for a small break during their busy day.
I am reminded of spending time at my Dad’s gas station when I was growing up and hanging out with his customers – the “blue-collar” workers who keep things running in our society – the ranchers, repairmen, deliverymen, ditch diggers, drivers, builders, and bricklayers. You won’t see a three-piece suit or a necktie there (though perhaps a clean shirt and a bolo tie if there’s a wedding or a funeral that day.)
As a writer and storyteller I am also an expert eavesdropper (it’s a requirement for this job), which means my hearing is pretty good and I don’t mind listening in on the conversations of life as they roll out all around me. During my two meals at the cafe I couldn’t help but take in a couple of discussions that were happening at nearby tables and I want to share the gist of them here:
The first day a young mother with two small children at a table behind me chatted with a gentleman sitting alone in the next booth. She was in the process of moving to start a new life with her children in a new town – feeling nervous and excited at the same time. He was a traveling salesman who spent most of his days either driving from town-to-town or hoofing it from door-to-door, just hoping to find a willing customer.
“That sounds so hard,” she remarked.
“It is,” he replied, “yes it is hard.” And then he added the line that struck home with the young mom and with me:
“But I learned a long time ago that no matter what happens, you never stop believing in yourself. You just keep going to the next door and the next door and you never doubt that you can do this. And sure enough … somehow … you do. You end up being okay.”
The mom replied, “That’s just what I needed to hear!” as I was thinking the very same thing. I needed that reminder to keep going and believing and showing up every day to be the person I came here to be.
Like every good eavesdropper I recorded that inspiration in my memory banks, so I can pull it out whenever I get discouraged. And then the next day I overheard another even more powerful story that touched my heart:
Two men at a booth behind me were in deep conversation with one another. I couldn’t see them but I assumed they were both truckers because they were sitting in a section marked “Professional Drivers Only” – I smiled to think that in this setting truck drivers are the VIP customers, and rightly so.
One man did most of the talking as he described a horrifying accident that had recently occurred. A young man on a bicycle had become distracted and collided with the passenger-side of his truck. The cyclist skidded on the road and was thrown underneath the truck where he somehow avoided being run over by any of the 18 massive wheels of the machine.
The trucker raced out of the cab of his truck after screeching to a halt in the road and expected to see a mangled body on the pavement. But the young man, covered with road rash, was standing there all in one piece, dazed and confused, while his bike lay in the weeds along the side of the road.
Overwhelmed with relief, the trucker ran up to the cyclist to verify that he was truly alive and well. Next he told his companion at the table that without really thinking about it he had said this to the young man:
“Son, there is no way you should be alive right now. God wants you to be here because you have a purpose. Get your life in order.”
“I don’t know why I said it,” the trucker added, “but it blew that kid away!” I was feeling blown away too that I had been privileged to hear about this event that changed life forever for a truck driver and a young man on a bike – even though I had to “sandbag” on the conversation in order to listen.
Once again I recognized that life connects us all together in its mysterious ways, with unseen threads of suffering and hope and love and grace. While we begin and end our journeys alone, our lives on this path are woven together with all of humanity in an intricate tapestry, like each star in the splendrous sky.
And when we can let go and trust the process of life, we will discover that we are exactly where we need to be, right here and right now.
Stop and listen. You will hear, without a doubt, the harmonious symphony of an infinite number of living beings, each singing their own unique melody. And if you listen close enough, you might discover, too, an occasional blast of a horn or screech of a brake as the wheels keep turnin’ and the freight keeps rollin’ down this highway of life.
And so that’s all for now – “I’m down ‘n gone; eighty-eights around the house; keep ’em between the ditches, jack.”
Dr. Karen Wyatt is a hospice and family physician who writes extensively on spirituality and medicine, especially at the end-of-life. She is the author of the award-winning book “What Really Matters: 7 Lessons for Living from the Stories of the Dying.” Connect with her at karenwyattmd.com, on Facebook at fb.com/karenwyattmd and on Twitter @spiritualmd.