When I was little—about six, I’d say—I certainly wasn’t religious, but I sure was a believer! I believed, unshakably, that when you asked God for something, and if it was for anyone’s good, He listened! My father would always gather the family around the dining room table on a Sunday evening after supper, and then when he had prayed, my mother and my sister (who was 10 years older than I) would be invited to join him in prayer. Before the meal he would say the magical words, “For what we are about to receive…” the important part of it being, to me, that “C- sound” in the middle of the word “receive” because it sounded like the “sea.” Little did anyone at the table know that that while they were praying, I would be crawling around the table, making it a game to get back to my place before they opened their eyes, and in time to join solemnly in the “Amen!”
I believed that it was that prayer that took us, on a regular basis, down to the South Coast of Natal, and I wanted God to know that I most definitely seconded that. I was convinced. and unshakably believed, that my “Amen” made that possible. It was a sort of “insurance.”
As I recall, the water and the beaches of those resorts beside the blue, blue Indian Ocean are always gloriously warm, and in those days the sand was always clean, but what I did not know was that it was due to my father’s health that we would go there. It was because of his work that we lived at such a high altitude, and because he suffered cruelly with heart disease, he would frequently almost be driven to return to sea-level for his health…
In my time spent as a lay chaplain in a hospital, I learned the truth of that. No amount of wishing could have helped to save the legs of the bitter woman who was brought in to have both of hers amputated…She went home with them still intact!
I also wonder why people waste time consulting horoscopes. In fact, many years ago—and I cringe at the very memory!—I was actually paid to write the ones that, together with a “lucky stone,” were included in cans of coffee as a sales promotion.
Wishing is Such a Futile Exercise!
It’s like trying to phone somebody who doesn’t have a telephone. Now praying is another thing altogether. It works! “Seek and ye shall find…ask and ye shall receive…” That, indeed, is another thing.
The Man With the Yellow Rolls-Royce
Rather than “lucky,” I prefer to say “blessed.” In my vocabulary there are no such words as “luck” or “coincidence.” I have lived long enough now not to believe in either. Nor do I believe in “ships passing in the night.” I think that makes God too small. I believe that God is bigger than mere chance and I believe that we meet, and things happen, by Divine Intervention. I agree that sometimes people one meets only briefly, inexplicably come along again some day, even if just in our memories and in certain circumstances, and then become part of our lives.
Although the climate and the altitude may have been hard on my father, our little town with its pure, clean air was a haven for British ex-servicemen who had been gassed or otherwise affected by the vicissitudes of WWI, and many came to try and recuperate there.
One of them became a local legend. He was blinded and had lost his hearing, and, having been a shareholder (?) of the company was provided with every new model Rolls Royce that came on the market. The one I remember was as impressive as the yellow one I later saw in an Ingrid Bergman movie, and he had a chauffeur to drive him, but his life must have been a living hell. He stayed in our local hotel and, because he was still weak, and often breathless, a chair was left on the landing between the two floors, so that he could rest halfway, and he soon became accustomed to subsiding onto it on his way down to breakfast. My father usually had us pray for him as many others in the town were doing.
One day it transpired that a newly-hired chambermaid, who could not understand why the landing should be be thus cluttered, removed the chair, and as he sat down on the wooden step, heavily and with a painful thump, his eyesight miraculously returned. The newspapers were full of the story and I am pleased to say that, although he remained deaf, his sight was good enough to enable him to join my father and his friends at many a game of bridge.
What about Brief Encounters?
If I may be permitted to quote from my book, When You Know That You Know That You Know! Or: The Redemption of Benjamin Ashton: “Each one of us, as we come into contact with one another, has a responsibility towards the other, whether we know it or not. Have you ever held a butterfly and noticed how some of its color comes off in your hands? I’m sure you have. But you don’t even have to hold it; if it were just to fly too close to you, only brush your sleeve in passing, some of its ‘butterfly dust’ would have been left behind on you. In the same way, something of you will already have rubbed off on me, and you will go away carrying with you something of me. It may be a minuscule part, so small that you won’t know that it is there, but it will be. We may possibly forget that we ever met, but none of us will ever be quite the same again.”