When I was much younger and much more ‘emotional’ I traveled the NYC subway system to and from college. The subway was a great way to travel for me at that time. For 50 cents I could get on one block from my house in the Bronx and land in front of my school in lower Manhattan within 45 to 60 minutes – pretty good. I normally got a seat because I got on the second stop. So the ride also provided me with some uninterrupted time to do whatever reading or studying that I might have needed that day. Now all these benefits did not come without some downsides. Anyone that traveled the subway in the late ‘70s knew that they were subject to regular non-scheduled stops between stations due to one reason or another – whether it be mechanical problems, other subway traffic or just for the heck of it. Sometimes these stops would last a minute or two, others times (likely during the summer before air conditioning was standard equipment) for many minutes and even up to 15-30 minutes – in a dark, cramped, and sticky box.
Now, one evening on my way home one of these extended delays occurred. I remember leaning against one of the doors face to face with a sea of humanity for what seemed to be an eternity, and then the train slowly pulled forward for about 25 feet and stopped dead again. Well, on that particular day and that particular time I had had enough. I took the heel of my boot and slammed it into the base of the sliding metal door. It made a very loud bang and I probably shouted some expletive just to make sure everyone knew how pissed off I was. (As I said I was much younger and a lot more emotional at that time.) As New Yorkers will do when confronted by someone exhibiting aggressive behavior, I immediately was given a little more space as the neighboring sardines backed off. I became a bit ashamed about my outburst and as I calmed myself down I had an epiphany. I came to the simple realization that this situation was something over which I had no control. All the banging on the door with my boot, all the cursing was not going to move that subway car one foot. Sometimes we just need to accept the circumstances, and that day I began to see things a little differently.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago: Ellie and I were traveling with a tour group in Italy and it was the day we were scheduled to attend an audience with the pope in St. Peter’s Square. Our weather during the first week of the trip had been good, but today we woke to a steady rain. Normally, these weekly audiences can draw up to 50,000 pilgrims and faithful, so we dressed accordingly and made our way to the square a couple of hours beforehand in order to get good seats. We waited for an hour in the rain before we were permitted to enter. But when we did we were surprisingly able to get right up front in the first row. Apparently the rain had kept the crowds down to less than a quarter of the normal. We sat in the cold rain for about another hour, but had a terrific view of the podium. And when the pope-mobile performed a couple of drive-bys upon entering the square, we had curbside seats.
Now, we were also traveling with a couple of pilgrims that were restricted to a wheelchair and a walker. During the trip these people were unable to visit several of the sites because of their circumstances. One had mentioned the day before that she was not disappointed in what she missed as long as she was able to see the pope. Normally those who may be disabled to some degree are seated in a special area close to the podium, but because of the inclement weather, this group including our comrades was taken indoors. Our friends were initially disappointed thinking that they were going to miss seeing the pope. But much to their surprise and delight they were told that yes indeed ‘they were going to see the pope.’ And as we sat in the rain soaked to the skin we were equally surprised and delighted to see our friends on the big screen as they reveled in a personal audience with the pope that I am sure they, and those of us who witnessed it, will never forget.
So you see there are always going to be situations that may not meet our expectations. Things that we may first see as misfortunes, bad luck or down-right frustrating – things we have no control over. But we need to remember that we are not in control, and trust that God may just have a reason for that rainy day or that subway stuck in the tunnel.