It’s Wednesday. I like being in the middle of the work week, balancing between Monday and Friday. This last week I felt slightly off balance, though. Before I left home, I crouched down to the lower shelf of the bookcase near the hallway to find a book to take for the BART train ride. I looked, pulled out Celtic Magic by D. J. Conway. I reflected back on when I found this book. I wasn’t looking. It was in a used bookstore and it was only $2, so I decided to buy it. I haven’t read it yet, only peeked inside from time to time. I put the book back on this Wednesday. It wasn’t the right book for the day. The next book I pulled was Thich Nhat Hanh’s Our Appointment with Life: Discourse on Living Happily in the Present Moment. A very slender book. Yes, this was the one I would select. Whenever I feel a little off kilter, I can count on Nhat Hanh to breathe perspective into my life. I looked up and began my walk to the train station, headed for work. As I looked out into the hills and up into the sky, the clouds looked as heavenly as ever. They were splayed out like long strands of love. I had the feeling that God was having a fine day, a light and airy day, filled with grace.
The day felt as though it was off to a good start. I felt calm walking through what to my imagination was the ocean floor, with the brownish red dirt and little weeds and tall weeds with colorful caps, sea creatures, shells and rocks, that were my path. I looked forward to reading on the train. I have read this short discourse before, but it was great to revisit the wisdom, to be reminded about compassion, impermanence—living in the present—without a tight hold on the past or the future. I needed this on this particular day. So many gems in the commentary, one of which says:
“In order to return to the present and to be face to face with what is happening, we must look deeply into the heart of what is and experience its true nature. When we do so, we experience the deep understanding which can release us from suffering and darkness. (pg. 35).
At work, I took the clouds and sun with me. I felt cloaked in peace, smiling more than usual, walking with a lighter, slower gait, compared to my usual quick step. I was in my element with the seaboard, the sunshine, the earth.
The workday came to a close. I grabbed my backpack, said goodbye, and made my journey back home. As I was approaching a stoplight, I had noticed an Asian woman coming from the opposite direction. I stepped up on the pavement to wait for the signal to turn green. I set my backpack down and leaned down to get my cap out because the sun was so strong on my face. As I stood up I heard, “Excuse me.” I turned and it was the Asian woman. I thought she was going to ask me for directions. Instead she held out a coin the size of a fifty cent piece and said, “Would you like this?” I took the coin with writing on it and began reading and then I said, “Oh” out loud. I was thinking, she’s going to want money, which I didn’t have, and she may begin going into a long discourse, but instead, because I stayed fixated on the coin, trying to read the print that reflected the bright light, she said, “Do you read Spanish or English?” That I took so long reading, may have indicated that I couldn’t read the English words. I should have said both, but I said, “English.” On the first side of the coin it says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16.”I was about to give the coin back to her when the light turned and she said, “Keep it.”
“Thank you.” I stood slightly speechless. I flipped the coin around to the other side and read, “Dear Heavenly Father, I believe that Jesus Christ your Son died on the cross for my sins, was buried for three days and rose again. Thank you for giving me eternal life through him. Amen.”
She hurried along toward the BART station and I trailed slowly behind, turning the coin in my hand and feeling touched, blessed in some way.
There were two other people in the intersection. What made her decide to give the coin to me, I wondered. Did I have a certain look on my face. Did I look in need of the beautiful words on the coin?
On the BART train platform, headed toward home, the clouds—still speaking to me— looked like tufts of cotton that a child has pulled into rays of light; and also they were patches of cotton, smoothed across the sky with a painter’s knife, textured, varied, and then I saw an opening like an eye down the center of this wondrous skyscape.