I took a walk during my lunch break and, as I often do, I called my wife to check on her day. As I was walking and talking with her I happened upon a middle aged couple who seemed lost. The gentleman looked up and looked me in the eye, and said “Excuse me, can you help us?”
I asked my wife to hang on and addressed him, “Yes, sir. How can I help you?”
“Do you know how to get to the Wal-Mart from here?” He asked.
His accent was not native to Southern Alberta.
“That would be in Deerfoot Meadows, about 3 km from here.”
“Is that within walking distance?” he asked.
“You may have to take the bus,” I responded. “Over there.”
“What about the Marshalls?” His wife asked.
My wife chimed in my ear through Bluetooth, “If you guys are near the train station you can ask the operators for directions.”
I relayed the helpful advice from The Missus, and offered to walk with them to the nearby train station. We were headed in the same direction, so it was no trouble. I walked together with the couple. I asked my wife to call her back, and she understandably consented. As we walked, the Gentleman asked me where I was from. I told him that I am Canadian born, but the child of Jamaican immigrants that made Canada their home in the 1970’s. He then asked me to ask him where he was from.
We got to the bus terminal and approached a bus driver.
“Ask him how to get to the stores”, asked the Gentleman, “and I will tell you where we are from.”
I spoke to the bus operator how to get to the shops, but he was rather short with me. “That bus there takes you to the Wal-Mart, and one of those buses around the corner will take you to the Marshalls.”
In spite of the driver’s tone, I thanked him, and I continued to walk with the couple. The Gentleman thanked me for being so available.
“I am here to help.” I heard myself say.
“So, where are you from?” I asked, hoping to know more about my travelling companions.
“Guess,” The Gentleman smiled. His wife started to chuckle.
“Ha, ha , ha. No. Try the other side of the world.”
“Try a place more ancient? The Middle East, perhaps.”
“UAE? Lebanon? Israel.. no wait, not Israel she became a nation in the 60’s.” my words stumbled out as I was lost in thought.
The couple laughed. It was clear that I was this afternoon’s entertainment, but I didn’t mind.
“We built the pyramids.” he hinted
“Oh, gosh. Egypt.” I murmured.
They could not stop their laughter.
As we continued on, I saw a glint of metal on his right hand.
“I see that you have a scholars ring,” I remarked. “Are you affiliated with a university?”
“No, I am with the Navy,” he commented.
“Oh my. Well, you certainly have my respect, sir.” I responded. “I am afraid that I would not be cut out for the military.”
“I disagree,” the Gentleman said, “you would be a great military person. You are friendly, speak well and clearly, you stand upright and are helpful and respectful.”
This was high praise from a stranger who only knew me for five minutes. I felt like God was telling me something…
“Thank you. You’re very kind, sir.”
We got to the bus stop and I was about to instruct them to wait for the next bus, and wish them well when something said to me “Drive them.”
In my life experience, I learned that it is best to listen when that Small Voice speaks.
So I offered them a ride to the Marshalls, and they accepted. I took them to my car which was a gift from my boss after accepting my position at my current place of employment.
For the 4 minute drive, we talked about marriage, children, and clean living. I remember saying “My wife and I believe in saving the mystery until marriage and then growing together as a couple.” He agreed with me and said that the traditions an customs were very much the same back home in Egypt.
When we got to the destination, he asked me my name.
“My name is Ken, short for Kenneth. Yours?”
“It is easy to remember.” said the Gentleman. I am Aladdin.”
“As in the story of the genie?” I remarked.
“Yes, but I have no lamp.” Aladdin chuckled.
I laughed, “Perhaps, but it is clear to me that I am here to serve you and grant your wishes.”
He sheepishly smiled, and gave me his business card. I shook hands with him and his wife and we parted ways.
It turns out Mr. Aladdin is a Navy Commodore, deputy chief of civil affairs recently promoted to Admiral, here on holiday.
Humbled, I remembered a bible verse that I once read, “A man’s gift makes room for him, and brings him before great men.” (Proverbs 18:16). Then came a flurry of thoughts.
If I had not been released from my prior occupation, I would not have ended up at my current employer. If I had not taken that position, I would not have wound up with that car as a gift. If I did not have that car, I could not be a blessing to Aladdin and his wife, nor would I realize that he was a high ranking military official spending time and getting help from poor.. little… insignificant me.
I felt like The Finger of The Divine touched me directly that day.
I then remembered about a reading from a book called “The Alchemist” by Paulo Cohelo about a young man who was willing to change everything in his life just to get to Egypt and journey to see the pyramids.
In the book, the writer dealt with the concept of determinism, summed up in a single word “maktub“, an Arabic word meaning “It is written“. In short, given certain initial conditions, everything that ensues is bound to happen as it does and in no other possible way; thus, nothing in nature is contingent, nor is there any room for us to do other wise.
It is written. God wills it. Where I am is exactly where I am meant to be. And God cares for me.
So in gratefulness, I wept.