Lately in my practice, my goal has been to turn my focus away from the “personal interests” that Workbook Lesson 25 says we don’t even have, and redirect that focus to working miracles for others. In every situation, I’ve looked on the people around me and asked: “What can I do for him, your holy Son?” (S-2.III.5:1). Yesterday, on my birthday of all days, I had an auto accident (don’t worry, I’m fine) that gave me an unexpected opportunity to put this into practice.
Here’s the story: I was driving southbound down Interstate 575 on the way to the baseball stadium where I work weekends. In the northbound lanes, I saw a very strange sight: Two police cars, sirens flashing, leading a huge funeral procession of Harley bikers with American flags flapping on the backs of their bikes. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.
It was hard to take my eyes off of them, but suddenly something else grabbed my attention: I was approaching a white van right in my lane that was completely stopped and had its hazard lights flashing. I put on the brakes quickly, and fortunately had plenty of time to come to a full stop behind him. I awaited an opportunity to go around him and continue on.
But then, all of a sudden, I saw in my rear view mirror a car coming upon me very fast from behind. I heard the brakes squeal and saw the smoke stream from the tires, but the car was clearly not going to stop quickly enough. It was one of those odd moments when time dramatically slows down. As I saw the car approaching, I was unusually calm about it. I remember thinking to myself quizzically, “Looks like that car is going to hit me….Well, I hope it doesn’t hit me too hard.”
Sure enough, it hit me. I felt a jerk and heard that unmistakeable sound of crunching metal. The Coke in my hand flew out and spattered everywhere, and my Atlanta Braves baseball cap flew off my head. (I found it later in the back seat.) And that was that.
My car was still running, so I pulled off to the shoulder, turned off the ignition, and tried to get out. The door was damaged and wouldn’t open at first, but I finally was able to force it open. I got out and saw that the entire back end of my car was seriously smashed in. (The policeman said the insurance companies will probably declare it “totaled.”) I had a brand-new microwave oven in the trunk and I remember hoping that it was still intact (it wasn’t).
But surprisingly, as I looked on all this, I was still calm. I wasn’t upset at all. I wasn’t mad at the other driver. I was really philosophical about it. I looked at the whole thing and said something like, “Well, how about that?”
Then I saw the car that hit me and my focus turned immediately to its driver. The car’s front end was bashed in and I wanted to see how the driver was. Two other people were already there: the van driver, who was calling the police (and inexplicably drove away immediately afterward), and a kind woman who stopped just to see if everyone was okay.
Then I looked in and saw the driver. It was a young woman, shaking and crying her eyes out amidst deployed airbags. I and the other woman asked if she was physically okay, and she said she was. We suggested that she get out of the car, and she did. Once the other woman had ascertained that everyone was physically okay, she left.
So there we were, just me and the driver that hit me, awaiting the police. She was still shaking and crying, and my entire focus was on calming and consoling her. I introduced myself, and found out that her name was Kate. She asked if I was okay and apologized profusely for smashing my car. She felt really guilty and distraught about the whole thing.
I told her that I was fine, and not to worry about the car. I put my arms around her and reassured her. “It’s okay. It was just an accident. Don’t worry about a thing. These cars are just big piles of metal. The important thing is that the human beings are all okay. The police will be here soon, the insurance companies will take care of the cars, and everything will be fine. Stuff like this just happens. It’s just life. Take a few deep breaths. Everything’s fine.”
I even made jokes about it, saying that this accident was a great birthday present because it saved me from having to work for hours outside in a hot and humid baseball stadium parking lot. I got the day off for my birthday!
Gradually, Kate did calm down. I asked her about herself. Where did she work? What did she do? I found out she worked at the mall, and was a student at the local college. The car she was driving was her mother’s car. She told me that the accident happened because she had been distracted by that strange funeral procession. I said that I had been distracted by it too. It really was quite a sight.
She had called her mother to come get her, and I asked how her mother responded. She said her mother was just glad she was okay. I said, “Yep, that’s all a mother cares about. She’s not worried about the car. She’s just thanking God you’re safe and sound.”
That’s pretty much how it went until the police showed up. We went through all the usual reporting and paperwork. The tow trucks came to tow both of our cars to the impound lot. Kate’s mother showed up. I told the police officer that I needed a ride home, and Kate’s mother very kindly offered me a ride. So, we all drove back to my apartment together, exchanging our information and continuing the conversation about our lives.
When we arrived at my apartment, we all got out of the car. I hugged Kate goodbye, and said again, “Don’t worry. Everything’s fine.” Her mother thanked me “for being so kind to my daughter.” We waved goodbye and they drove off.
Now that I’ve had time to reflect on everything, I feel very heartened by how I responded to the situation. I think my recent practice focus on turning from “personal interests” to working miracles for others paid off. I must have been in a state of miracle-mindedness or miracle-readiness when the accident happened, because I truly wasn’t concerned about myself or my battered car. I can honestly say that all I cared about in that moment was being truly helpful to the person who hit me.
So, when the crucial moment came, my miracle-readiness moved directly into miracle-doing. I didn’t even consciously think about it; I just moved into action in the “involuntary” way that Jesus says is ideal for miracle working. I feel like I truly worked a miracle for Kate.
As I said, this response heartens me. It gives me hope that, in time and with lots of practice, I can spend every moment of my life in a state of miracle-readiness, and perform miracles of love for all the brothers and sisters Jesus sends me – even if they are sent via crashing into the back end of my car. (That line in the Manual about the child running into you comes to mind.) Maybe I really can “pass” this course in miracles and be the miracle worker Jesus calls me to be.