Eli, Mia and I found a bench to sit on with our dinner that consisted of a Red Bull and the dregs of a bag of pretzels. After a few minutes, the kids and I noticed the benches we were sitting on were covered with bugs. We had not noticed them before because there were so many of them clumped together it just looked like part of the wood. Ugh! Ack! Dang mountains. Chris called my cell phone to say he would stay with the mechanic and get things sorted out. They were going to try a bunch of things to see what the problem was, and also take a trip to the auto parts store.
So we started walking farther into the park, and noticed that a Boy Scout Jamboree was actually going on in there. And my brain started working: Boy Scouts… LDS… There’s a chance there could be an LDS Boy Scout troupe in there. Maybe we could even find someone local to help us out while we’re stranded. It wasn’t 5 or 10 seconds after I thought this thought that someone said to Eli, “Hey, I like your shirt! BYU! Great university! I went there!” And that’s how we met Brother Johnson*. Our new best friend.
I think it’s good to be independent and never expect things from people, but on the other side of that spectrum, should I really be so shocked whenever people are so kind to me?
Although Brother Johnson did his best to see if there was anything at all he could do to solve our car problem-- and he, of course, couldn’t—the amount of relief he gave WAS HUGE! He showed us where to buy hot dogs and soda, talked with us, and gave my kids chips and granola bars while I sat on the picnic bench with my head in my hands, worrying. I was just so thankful. I don’t know what I would have done if I had to deal with hungry kids on top of it all. Mostly, we just kept busy by people watching and the kids were just devouring their snacks.
I’m surprised this part of the story wasn’t more adventurous. Because you hear "Natalie, Eli and Mia" and "Boy Scout Jamboree" in the same sentence and expect a good humorous story. I was just too stressed to go and make the day more odd and adventurous than it already was. Scouts would come and go. From the picnic pavilion, we were watching some of the activities: sports games, spear throwing, gun cleaning, some weighing and measuring. A kind soul would walk by and give the kids a bag of Halloween candy.
I really felt like I met an angel that day: Brother Johnson, an angel disguised in sweats and a baseball cap. He just stayed with us and kept chatting and making sure the kids were happy and fed. I didn’t know that just seeing that someone’s situation sucked and trying to make it easier was on the “to do” list of angels, but it is. And I didn’t know God loved me that much that he would make sure we had somewhere to sit and eat hotdogs with concerned LDS people to make it a little easier to be in Redneckville with a broken car.
We often think that God is just about drama. Dying for us and judging us at the Second Coming. I know those things are true. But I love the re-awakenings that I sometimes have that God is in the small things. Jesus taught and healed people, but he also gave them fish and bread and wine.
I’m now making a mental portrait gallery of people that have been divinely put in the right place at the right time to make a difference in my life. So many kind strangers! My loving family, my youth advisor when I was a wayward teen, various bishops, dear friends, even school teachers. I neglected to mention, (but now I will!) that there was a sweet friend in the hallway at church who doesn’t even know me that well, but whose face now hangs in my Angel Portrait Gallery. She listened to my experience, let me cry on her shoulder, and told me I was beautiful several Sundays ago when I had left Relief Society trying to escape the never-ending discussion about my weight gain.
And you’re not going to believe this, but another angel turned out to be the mechanic, Big Gulp Addict. And I’ll use his real name, now: Terry. We were only at the Boy Scout Jamboree for about an hour and a half! (Only 90 minutes with the Boy Scouts and Eli still came home saying, “Boo Ya!”) The first thing they tried (replacing the thermostat) had worked! Chris had really bonded with Terry and was amazed that he had dropped everything to come help us that day-- on a Saturday when most mechanics were closed—and only charged us 80 bucks! He was so touched and impressed by his kindness that he threw in an additional $20 for Terry because 80 seemed so ridiculously little. Chris’ theory was that it had actually been Heavenly Father’s mercy that we broke down in Redneckville as opposed to DC where the cost of repair would have been exponentially higher.
The car worked like new! Even the A/C was fixed! So Chris and I decided to continue our trek out to see the gosh-darn mini-van that had caused us all this trouble. It’s a Honda Odyssey, about 5 years old, but the miles were the lowest we had seen for that price, so I think that will be the one you will see me driving around in.
Shortly. Hopefully. In a week. After the guy fixes the DVD player and drives it up to deliver it to us. If nothing else goes wrong!
But my new game plan is not to expect things to go wrong anymore. Because God’s hand is in my life, and I’m pretty convinced he’s got his eye on us. Elder
He said, “Often enough [our] distress can be of our own making, but even then the Father of us all is watching and assisting. And always there are those angels who come and go all around us, seen and unseen, known and unknown, mortal and immortal.” Like the story Elder Holland told of the young boy in the dangerous river, saying, “Darkness . . . afraid . . . river . . . alone,” I had gotten myself into a mess and was saying, “Stranded. . . afraid . . . broken car . . . middle of nowhere . . . HELP!!” And help did come.
If the lesson from this is that God cares about the little things, then my every day life should be even more in that category. The pile of laundry and the overwhelming PTA assignment. I know He’s there and listening, and I’m going to make a better effort to listen back and maybe I can then be an angel in a small way to someone else who needs me down the road.
*Go here and scroll down to the section on Mormons for a brief explanation of why Mormons call each other brother and sister.