There are times in life when moments not only stand out, but, serve as markers in life; markers returned to often, to be spoken about, to be shared with others, to be reflected upon. In the retelling come reminders and hopefully inspiration.
My father was paid every other week. The reason I know this is that before all of the other children came along, he would take my mother and I every two weeks to Tradewinds Cafeteria in a neighboring town for dinner. It likely also served as an opportunity for my mother who was, as was common in those days, a stay-at-home mom, to get out of the house.
Eagerly I raced through the glass doors to stand in line. You’d grab a tray and patiently walk through the line where women dressed like lunch ladies from school would serve you your meal. There were lots of options. But, every time my ceramic white plate was filled with rainbow trout, mashed potatoes, corn, a raisin bran muffin and a glass of chocolate milk.
After dinner, we would take a short walk down the shopping center sidewalk to Neisner’s 5 and Dime. Stores like Neisner’s have gone the way of many retailers. But back in the day, McCrory’s, Grants, and Neisner’s were the only merchants in small towns to buy small household items. Bigger cities hosted stores like Sears and J.C. Penney’s. Inside these 5 and Dime stores were tables with little compartments sectioned off by glass each containing wares. There was a make up counter. Inside the door and often to the right was a soda fountain where you could buy a hamburger, hot dog, or tuna melt with a malt shake. There were also toys. For a young lad like myself, it was amazing to see all of the cars and trucks available. My father always allowed me to go home with something small.
I’m certain they would have called for me and told me they were leaving. Or perhaps they each thought I was with the other. But, on one occasion, I suddenly realized that I was alone and lost. I raced around the store looking for them and finally landed in one spot and cried uncontrollably.
It was my mother’s hand on my shoulder who finally calmed me. She had stooped down to speak to me. She called me by my name and she said, “Whenever you are lost, stand still. I was looking for you and I couldn’t find you. Stand still and I will find you.”
I’ve told this story often. I return to it time and time again.
Often in life, we become lost. Maybe we are disillusioned by our current job or relationship. Maybe our lack of or inability to make friends has become frustrating. Maybe we’ve reached a brick wall. Maybe there are many people around us busy but who haven’t noticed our tears. Maybe we’ve cast our net out further and further and still haven’t found what we are looking for. Maybe it is time for us to stop. Maybe it is time for us to stand still, to listen.
The voice of direction isn’t heard in the storm or in the rain or in the wind or even in the sunshine. It is heard in the calm. We are only required to listen.