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We walk daily surrounded by miracles but rarely think of them. Our bodies are finely tuned machines. We think, breathe, walk, and absorb nutrients without considering the processes occurring. Nature, we say. It isn’t until something fails that we think about the loss of function, the miracle that the function even exists. When our backs go out, we suffer and moan the loss of movement. When diagnosed with a dread disease, there’s even more suffering and moaning, prayers and promises abound. For me, even a minor paper cut can be annoying and make me hyper-aware of my fingertips that I otherwise would have happily ignored. Likewise, about 30 years ago I had a knee injury and couldn’t walk for several months. Now I can walk, sciatica notwithstanding, and every step is a joy… when I think about it. I should be dancing, and in awe, of my recovery and ability to walk every day, but my attitude toward that blessing has become mundane, sadly.

Hashem provides us with gifts all the time. We just need to open our eyes to them. The following testifies how Hashem saved my life recently. Miracles were performed for me, and a gift lay at the end: my life… and great air conditioning. Here’s the story:

My bus would be leaving at 7:15 a.m. It was 7 o’clock and I was still on the highway, 15 minutes away. I’m a bit anxious; I’ve done this before — arriving too close for comfort — and made it on time, but I hate this mad rush. It’s really not me.

Metrocard in Wallet, Chris Goldberg

Metrocard in Wallet – NYC by Chris Goldberg, CC-BY-NC 2.0

It was time for my annual trip to New York City for the pleasure of visiting my sons and coincidentally renewing ny NYC “street cred.” I was on the way to the Megabus pick up site outside of Baltimore, near IKEA. New York via Megabus is only about 3½ hours and you can catch a $5 fare at times. I purchased the tickets weeks before, consulting with my sons on the date: a Monday or Wednesday were my choices. I remembered after purchasing the fare that I should have picked Wednesday so I could arrange to see a matinée, something I’d not done when I lived in the City. But Monday it was. One son, however, started a new job suddenly and was at training in Ohio. The other son would not be able to leave work early and could only meet me for dinner. Rats. Arriving in NYC at 10:35 a.m. and nothing planned. Fortunately there are plenty of coffee shops in Manhattan. Starbucks would renew my NYC street cred and give me the much needed caffeine boost I would need having woken up so early to catch the 7:15 bus.

Drive Cane Seat, image © Medical Depot, Inc.

Drive Cane Seat, © Medical Depot, Inc.

I left home a scant few minutes later than I would have liked. Packing list: a full water bottle, dry cereal & raisins to eat on the bus, phone charger & cord. Even so, I turned back because I had left my Cane Seat at home. I retrieved it only having lost 5 minutes. Still, that timing was too tight. (I ultimately left my Metrocard in my desk despite having reminded myself to take it along several times in the days leading up to the trip.)

I drove due east on the Beltway, zooming at about 70 miles per hour, in pace with the other traffic (but still was being passed by other cars whizzing by. Hmph. Baltimore drivers.). One particular black pickup truck behind me repeatedly overcame my car and fell back, and ironically, I ended up behind him at a choke point. Typical. Suddenly, a sea of red tail lights swim before me as I round a curve and face the rising sun’s mighty glare. I stomped on the brakes, the car slowed, but it felt like it took forever. My foot went near the floor meeting some resistance, and I remember thinking, “Don’t pump ABS brakes.” Traffic resumed and I took my exit about 5 miles after that.

The exit ramp led to a 4-lane highway. About a half mile after the exit was a traffic light. I could see it must have just turned green since cars were still stopped in two lanes at the intersection and cars in the the two left-turn lanes were turning. Since I was still traveling only a little slower than Beltway speeds, I started to brake. Heavens! There was no response; my foot went to the floor and the car sped along at about 50 miles per hour. Flash! I was concerned there would be a collision. My brain went into overdrive. Fortunately, there was an empty right-turn lane next to me. I think I downshifted to 3rd gear but I can’t really remember anything but laying on the horn and swinging around the corner like a racecar driver. That crossroad traveled uphill, slowing the car some. Thankfully there was no oncoming traffic at the top of the hill. I was able to make a left turn and another quick left into the parking lot of an apartment complex. Jamming the transmission into 1st gear, I pulled to a stop in a parking space.

Motor off, I sat stunned for a moment. I realized the miracles that had happened for me. Not once, not twice, but at least three times no collision occurred when there could have been one! A woman seated in her car witnessed my quick parking job. I shakily got out of the car to ask her where I was, needing an address for a tow truck. I was telling her what happened. She didn’t speak much English, but I understood the blessings she gave me in Spanish. She handed her driver license to me so I could read the address clearly. Shaking and thanking her, I went back to my car. It was 7:15. No Megabus.

The next part of the story isn’t as dramatic. I drank water and researched repair shop options in the area on my phone as my own mechanic’s shop was 15 miles away and not open. Few opened that early, but I found one that opened at 7:30 and called soon afterward. (It was a national chain and this branch had a good rating on Yelp.) Luckily they could fit me in for an estimate after a few jobs later that morning, and I was instructed to have the car towed there. When I arrived I was told there would be at least an hour’s wait, so I settled down, watched TV, noshed on my dry cereal, and chatted with an amiable 80-year old customer. I was also informed that the estimate would be free of charge, something I hadn’t even considered.

Freddie Ford's ignoble end, © JustHavingFun

Freddie Ford’s ignoble end, © JustHavingFun

My car was a 2003 Ford Focus with a 5-speed manual transmission, and I loved it. Fred. Freddie Ford I called it. I bought it used off Craigslist. It had 60,000 miles and was immaculate; I never regretted it for a moment. I put on only about 35,000 miles in 10 years, largely because I lived in Manhattan and didn’t drive much for nearly 5 years. I knew Fred was near the end of his useful lifetime but was hoping to put off purchasing a replacement for another year or so. Oh well.

My car was finally put on the rack, and after about a half hour, the mechanic emerged and gave me a worst-case estimate, redoing the brake lines, and assuming the master cylinder would need replacing. I went under the car myself, too, and saw the amount of corrosion and weak points in the brake lines. Sighed. I knew that at nearly 17 years old, Freddie wasn’t worth much more than $2,000 in good condition. The estimate came to nearly that amount. This did not surprise me, but I was hoping for a cheap fix. In this condition, the car was worth nearly nothing. Hmmm. Put money into an old car or look for a new one? Meanwhile, I phoned my trusted mechanic, agreed I could use a second opinion hoping he might be able to fix it for less, declined the service at the repair shop, and arranged to have Freddie towed there. (I sent a glowing thank you note to the repair shop the next day for the thoughtful treatment and thorough inspection they gave good old Freddie.) While I was waiting, I perused websites for used cars. I felt a replacement might be inevitable. My sister came to pick me up and I went home in a tizzy.

My mechanic called with the bad news. It wasn’t worth fixing Freddie. Not only were the brake lines shot but the thingamy was leaking, and the seals on the whatchamacallit were going. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that the air conditioner hadn’t worked for 6 years and just last winter I needed to squeegee the inside of the front windshield on occasion. So I told him I’d like to check out the car I saw on his website the next day. Yep. I tried it out and bought it. No looking around. It was provided for me.

New Kia, © JustHavingFun

New Kia, © JustHavingFun

That’s how I ended up with my “new” 2016 Kia Rio, with a 6-speed manual transmission and super-duper air conditioning! Why was it value priced? Well, few people drive a stick, and worse yet, it has manual windows and door locks! How retro! It’s the same size as Freddie and fun to drive. I haven’t named it yet — I don’t think “Killer” is appropriate although it is alliterative — and I look forward to many more happy miles with it.

There are miracles.

I recognize that my life was saved on the road. Several times I could have had a serious collision. I had the skills to handle the car, but the blessing was that no other cars were close when I needed to manoeuver. Thanks to minor auto racing experience in my 20s, and having lost brakes once before, I had some idea of what to do. But that wasn’t enough. While I didn’t panic, I didn’t think to pull the hand brake. I may have been able to downshift sooner. Who knows? My health and life were handed to me on a silver platter and I acknowledge that gift. Hashem has said to me that I have more work to do on this world. It is not my time. I was spared.

I need to keep this gift of life foremost in my mind. Gratitude and praise fill me. I could be bitter, upset, or worried about the money, but that is not my nature. Hashem will provide what I need. 

I’m just glad to be here, just having fun…

… but I only told my mother that I had some brake problems and decided not to continue with the trip. Please don’t tell her the whole story. My gift to my elderly mother is peace of mind.

Please share this story where you can to publicize that Hashem is in charge and He performs miracles. Let me know your reactions in the comments.

Friends, it’s been a while since I’ve written. I took a little break to develop skills in polymer clay jewelry design, and it has been a fun experience! I’ll be posting some photos in my “Crafty Me” section sometime soon.

Meanwhile, I hope to get back to more regular contributions to the Just Having Fun blog. It’s not just about fun, it’s a way of life.

Happiness is My Choice, 12

Expanded, ballooned, swelled—that’s how my heart behaved when I heard the announcement. Increased, surged, rose—that’s how my joy reacted upon learning the news.

One of my oldest friend’s oldest daughter just got married! I held this child when she was four hours old and now she and her beloved stood under the chuppah/marriage canopy as her parents did before her. I danced and hugged. My heart was full.

Other friends just became grandparents! The first grandchild, a girl, was born to their firstborn whose wedding I was privileged to attend last year. I delighted in the family’s joy at the wedding and blessed the new couple for a long, happy married life. Their well-being became my heart’s desire, their future as precious as that of my own children. Now the joy continues.

So why am I so happy some might wonder. Others might be jealous, blasé, or worse, bitter. I am grateful to have a heart that sings when others encounter happy tidings. Why not be happy for my friends? Their fortune, their gains, the fruition of their dreams does not detract from anything that is due to me. I am not losing anything or threatened.

Quite the contrary. The Creator wants us to be happy so He gives us opportunities to be happy. We need to recognize these opportunities and grab them with gusto! When we are happy with our own lot, the world looks brighter and everyone else’s good fortune rains upon us as well.

Ben Zoma says:
Who is rich?
The one who is appreciates what he has…
(Talmud—Avot 4:1)

Don’t I deserve happiness? Of course I do! That is the way Man is meant to live. Hashem gives me all I need; my needs will always be met. I know that everything coming to me will be provided… but sometimes it doesn’t feel that way. My wants are not always in concordance with my needs. I need shelter, clothing, nourishment, health. I have all that. Maybe I also want that vacation trip, a newer car,  relief from bills, and the ability to eat anything I want when I want without consequences. (The former three are within the realm of the possible and the latter is a pipe dream for sure!)

So how do I stand it—no, bask in it—when others around me “get” something and I don’t? Reframe the situation.

Others receive no gifts that are being withheld from me. Others get what they deserve. For whatever reason, I am not destined at this moment to receive that same gift. That doesn’t mean I will never have the new car or the means to go on vacation. I understand that if I do what I need to do in this world to be a kind, moral, and righteous person, I will be showered from Above with all that is coming to me.

Sharing joy in the blessings my friends experience enlivens me and wraps me in the surety that there is a Presence for Good in the universe. It binds me to my people. It creates good will. Sharing someone else’s happiness grows and grows. When we can view the world with eyes focused on the bounty available to us, we can only increase our own happiness and satisfaction with our lives.

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