Yesterday I decided to go on “walkabout.” My soul was restless and needed somewhere there were wide open spaces and fresh air, away from my “home” in Encinitas, CA. I was feeling closed in. I needed freedom from all that had occurred the previous few days. Change was brewing in the air in my life and I knew I had to get away to clear my mind.
So, after waking and doing a load of laundry I began my search. The desert came immediately to mind. There I could find what my soul needed, or at least I hoped it would. I decided on a short trip near Palm Springs, CA. As I drove north, the incoming weather system was on my mind and, although it was clear at the time, I knew the next day would bring a vigorous cold front with plenty of wind and rain. I found the least expensive room I could find, ate dinner at a little restaurant, and settled in for the night with a book lent to me by my Aunt. I was tired though from the prior days of searching for a new line of work. I’d left the insurance gig only the week before after months of navigating through the “system” and finally getting my insurance license in late December. It just didn’t work out. By 9 p.m., I was out like a light.
And then it “happened” again. At 3 a.m. I woke with a lurch and SOMETHING told me to get moving. I brewed a small pot of coffee, didn’t even bother showering, just washed up my face, brushed my teeth, quickly packed, and I was gone. Topped off the gas tank, got some more coffee, and by 4 a.m., I was heading west on I-10 back to the coast. When I say “happened”, this is the sort of thing that occurs from time to time over the past 3 years. I’ll wake, not really knowing why, and have this burst of energy like something is pulling me to move forward. Movement. There’s that word again. Always “forward”, never looking back, no regrets, and this strange sense of peace and serenity comes over me.
By the time I got 10 miles west on the freeway, the weather I foresaw the previous day was in full throes. It was absolutely pouring and I knew I had to drive slowly and carefully. The winds were fierce. Suddenly, it occurred to me that Joshua Tree, CA. was nearby and although I didn’t actually drive there, I could FEEL the spiritual significance of the term. I’m not a man of the bible, but I knew the tree referred to the biblical story of Joshua reaching his hands up to the sky in prayer. Nearing Beaumont, CA., not far from Riverside, and less than 60 miles from the Pacific Ocean, it began snowing in the midst of all the rain. And then I took the wrong exit. But, as it turns out, this exit led me to where I WAS SUPPOSED TO GO in the first place.
Coffee. I needed more. After all, I’d gotten up at 3 a.m. and here it was 5 a.m.! After finding my way back to I-215 via state highway 60, the one I THOUGHT was the wrong exit, I saw a Chevron station off the freeway and pulled over. As I drove into the station, rainwater was ankle deep near the entrance. And then I saw her. She was standing near her car by the gas pump and as I pulled up, she had this fixed gaze upon me. After refueling my coffee cup, she had come into the store and was talking with the cashier in Spanish. Both of them of course, were Hispanic. I smiled and said, “I have NO idea what you’re talking about but it doesn’t sound good.” Then she replied, “I ran out of gas on the freeway.” I thought she was just waiting to pay the attendant so I went outside to my vehicle. But before I even got to my car door, SOMETHING inside me said to turn around and go back.
I went up to her, smiled, and said “Did you say you ran out of gas?” She said, “Yes, but I have no money.” THAT’S when I knew why I got up the previous day, why I drove out in the desert to clear my head, why I got up at 3 a.m. with this burst of energy to keep moving “forward”, why the Joshua Tree was still on my mind, and why I took the wrong exit. So, I said, “Follow me. Let’s get you some gas.” The startled look on her face and the cashier’s was PRICELESS! She said all she needed was just enough to get to Hemet, CA., not that far away. But then ANOTHER lady came up, one who had obviously already talked with the young lady I was helping, and asked her if she had called anyone she knew for help. The young lady looked at her, pointed to me, and said “He is.” By then, I’d already said “Go ahead, fill her up!” The other lady looked at me in astonishment and said “God Bless you! I would have helped but I have to use what money I have left to get a birthday gift for my daughter.” I said, “Really? When is her birthday?” She said, “Today! She’s turning 13!” By now, I knew I was extremely BLESSED so, without hesitation, I reached into my wallet and handed her a $20 bill. The rest is history.
Turns out the young Hispanic lady’s name was Teresa and the black lady’s name who came up to ask Teresa if she found help, was Sharron. Sharron was nearly in tears. She looked at me and said, “Are you a spiritual man or something?” I said, “No, I’m not what you call a “man of the cloth” if that’s what you mean, but I AM spiritual.” That’s when Sharron went on to say she was a baby in Christ, only a year and a half old actually. To top it off, prior to that she had served SEVEN years in a federal penitentiary. I didn’t bother asking her why. Frankly, it didn’t matter. When we were done filling up Teresa’s gas tank, Sharron said a little prayer for us all. Right there in the Chevron parking lot somewhere near Riverside, CA. at 5 a.m. in the morning, in the pouring rain. Three complete strangers brought together by fate and the hands of God. My heart was filled with joy and gratitude as I left them with two heart-shaped cards. On the cards, I simply wrote down my name and website, asking them only to Keep Kindness Alive by “Paying it Forward.” Funny thing, NEITHER Teresa nor Sharron had ever seen the movie! I told them both to just find 3 people they could do an act of kindness for, even something as simple as smiling and opening the door for someone, and ask THEM to do the same.
Some may say, “Gus, you were crazy to be out in that kind of weather at that time of day! What if something happened? What if you got in a wreck or something? You can't afford this anyway!” So what if I couldn't afford it? Fact is, I couldn't afford NOT to! Furthermore, something DID “happen”, something wonderful and miraculous. Three people who will likely never see each other again but three people whose souls are tied together forever by simply being kind to one another. Not much different than the story described in this blog entitled “People That Inspire – Part I”, about a lady I helped out at the Eagles concert in May 2010.
My mission is becoming clearer with each passing moment. Things “happen for a reason.” I’m here on this planet to HELP people. Yesterday afternoon while I was out in the desert with the Joshua Tree, I received a phone call. I was offered a temporary job to organize and create a non-profit organization in order to HELP widowed parents and their families. Just one more step forward and I’ll gladly accept that with deep gratitude, humility, and HONOR.