I remember reading somewhere (I think it was Shirley MacLaine’s “Out on a Limb”) that “there are no accidents in life.”
Should you rear-end someone and use this as your defense, you’ll probably find it unsuccessful. However, the orchestration of providence often leaves me breathless.
My weekly lunch date is my elderly mother. Beginning in May, we enjoy enticing excursions known as “car picnics.” As Mom is no longer steady on her pins, I fold her walker and stow it in the back seat, pack a surprise lunch, and off we drive to her choice of scenic spots.
“Where shall we eat today, Mom,” I asked, helping her fasten her seat belt. “Lake, river, pastoral, or all of the above?”
“I think ... lake,” she replied.
Always grateful for the Carolina landscape, offering so many lovely places within a few minutes’ drive, we wound our way to one of two local lakes, pulled right up the shore and let its tranquility spread itself before our eyes.
“Lake and mountains,” I murmured, pulling our sandwiches from a tote bag. “Not bad, huh?”
“Beautiful,” Mom agreed.
“Wait ‘till you see the feast we have today!” I said. “Do you remember on Sunday I asked you what sort of sandwich you would like and you said ‘ham salad?’ Well, voila!”
“Lovely!” Mom smiled.
“And then,” I continued, reaching inside the tote once again, “you said you would love fresh strawberries? Ta da!”
“But,” I replied slowly, for this was the moment I relished, “the best part was when I asked if you could have any dessert you wanted ... ” and before she could answer, I pulled out the small tub of rice pudding she had requested, dusted with cinnamon, and the tub of what I had been dreaming of for exactly seven days, banana pudding, and presented them with an exaggerated flourish.
“Ooh,” she cooed. “Banana pudding!”
And promptly took it from my outstretched hand.
I hate rice pudding.
“I thought you wanted the rice pudding?” I asked, deflated. “I thought it reminded you of your childhood in England.”
“No, dear, you have it.”
“OK, no problem,” I said, lying stoutly. “I’ll have it. Gosh, I sure hope I have room for it after my sandwich and strawberries!”
We munched contentedly, looking out from the best seats in the house, remarking over the reflection of the mountains in the water and the funny, floating row of a mother goose and her fuzzy goslings. I saw my own mother eyeing the banana pudding and laying the other half of her sandwich in her lap.
“Saving room?” I teased. “You want me to wrap up the rest?”
“Yes,” she replied. “I don’t think I can finish it. I’m rather full.”
But let me tell you, after a couple of strawberries, she dove into her pudding, and it was gone by the time I had rewrapped the ham salad.
The loathsome rice pudding remained ignored, unopened and shoved back into the tote.
As we leisurely made our way back home, I stopped for gas and took note of a thin and dejected-looking man sitting on an outside bench. His hands and arms and hair were dirty, his T-shirt dank and sweat-stained. I left the gas nozzle inside the car and, pulling the tote out of the back seat, strolled over to him and said, “Hey, do you like ham salad?”
His eyes lit up and he nodded.
“Great,” I replied, and handed the other half of the sandwich to him. “My mom only wanted part of it, and I hate throwing away food if somebody wants it.”
Before I had even turned around to make my way back to the car, he had hunched over, wolfing it down.
“I think God put us right here, at this exact moment, to provide for that man,” I said to Mom, after replacing the gas nozzle on the pump and sliding into the driver’s seat. “He looked so hopeless, and he was obviously very hungry.”
“Yes,” she nodded.
“And actually ... ” I said, realizing I had more to give, and popped back out of the car with the tote and approached him for a final time.
“I’ve got some rice pudding here, too,” I offered, pulling out the untouched tub.
His stomach considered, and then his brow telegraphed his reply.
“Nah,” he said. “Hate the stuff.”
It still sits in the fridge at my house. Paul won’t touch it, either.
But I still believe my mother and I were purposely led to feed that man that day.
Although it’s pretty rare for God to get the dessert wrong, I should think.