Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Belated Introduction

“Asian Pacific Picnic, here I come!”

I’d been waiting for this event for about a month. Not only would I reconnect with the international community I so missed from my travels, this would also give me an opportunity to network for the Asian Cultures class. I planned to find speakers and interview subjects to interact with my students at Mercyhurst College.

The picnic started at noon. Dressed and ready to go at 10 am, I drummed my fingers on the table and read the flyer again. Then I placed my jelly cookies on a paper plate. I willed the hands of the clock to move ahead. Finally, the time arrived...but my ride didn’t!

“Be patient,” I scolded myself, “she’ll be here soon.” But that didn’t happen until about 2 pm.

The phone rang. “I’m on my way,” my colleague, Brenda, promised.

“Oh? No problem.” Did I sound cheery enough? She was driving me, after all. We still had a couple of hours left. I had till 4 pm.“We just need to make one stop.” What??

I gritted my teeth and nodded. Still time...

It would take thirty minutes to get to the beach from home. We finally arrived at the Peninsula. I tried to keep my voice nonchalant, “So where is Beach 11?”

“Amy, I’m not sure, but we’ll find it.”

We drove and drove, and as the minutes ticked by, my chest felt tighter and tighter.

I grew up in this area but I don’t know these things. Even if I could see well, I haven’t been on the beach for the past twenty-five years. Brenda had said she knew.

Ten minutes passed. Tick! Tick!

“Amy, how about if we get out here and ask? There’s a First Aid Station.” Brenda seemed eager to solve the dilemma. “You go ask those picnickers and I’ll ask at the station.”

Barefooted, she made her way over the gravel to a building. Where are her shoes? We are never going to make it! I still held the plate of cookies in my hand. The jelly cookies stuck to the cling wrap now.

The picnickers I asked shrugged. “It’s way back there. We are between Beach 6 and 7.”

I gulped. Oh Lord, help us make it! Where is Brenda?!

Brenda tiptoed across through the parking area, “I guess it’s back a ways,” She made a face and I couldn’t help myself, “I’ve been looking forward to this forever and...”

She interrupted, “Okay, I don’t have any shoes. You go and try to make it.” Brenda pushed me toward the sidewalk, “GO!”

“What? No, let’s stay together!”

“I hate to say this but I’m outta gas, and I have no shoes. You give me money for gas an--”

The urge to slap Brenda silly came over me. I’m half-blind. I forgot my cane. And you expect me to go walking miles—by myself—carrying my smooshed jelly cookies to try to find Beach 11 and a disbanded picnic?!

“Go!” she urged. “No, wait! First. Money--”

I glared daggers. She appeared not to notice. So I found myself reaching into my pocket and taking out a five-dollar-bill.

“Okay, now. Go!” She gave me a shove.

She rushed to her car. I marched in the opposite direction. Smoldering anger consumed me.

I marched faster.

Stepped higher.

Bam! Walked right into a big tree branch. The low-lying leaves slapped me. Slapped me silly, they did! I tried to battle my way back to sunlight.


I raised one hand to rub my forehead and bumped my other hand; the plate of cookies tipped forward and began to fall. I reached out to save them. In doing so, they got all squished!


All the sudden the humor snuck through to me and I began to laugh. A laugh that hurt my stomach.

Every time I get myself into these situations, I am carrying something bothersome!

I recalled as a new faculty member at our college in the Middle East, that earned me the privilege of traveling to Abu Dhabi to shake the hand of royalty, the Sheikh of the United Arab Emirates. Talk about BIG! I was gonna meet the head of a country! That day I clutched, not a plate of cookies, but an oversized purse to my side. I couldn’t figure out what to do with it when I got ready to shake the hand of His Excellency. As I worried about that gigantic purse slugging the Sheikh in the stomach and knocking the wind out of him, the actual moment arrived. I marched right past the Sheikh! My college director gasped, “Whoa, Amy!” He turned me around and guided me back to that important man to shake his hand.

That memory brought a smile to my face as I marched and clutched my bent plate of cookies, and marched some more. Purses. Cookies. Coats. I always carried something.

Now I know. When I get angry, I march.

This brought another smile to my face. My out-of-step marching lacked rhythm and coordination when I had to lead Grade 3 in a marching competition thirty years ago in Colombia! I guess I never got angry enough!

The more I thought about my crazy predicament in trying to reach the Asian picnic, the more humor I felt.

“Oh God, thank you for the sunshine today! Thank you for my two sneakered feet to walk with, and trees to slap the silly into me. I even thank you for my limited vision. What I don’t see doesn’t seem to matter much. I still get through these situations.” I giggled again.

A jogger passed me. “What time is it?”

“4:30” he shouted back.

“Whoa, Lord! How can I turn back the time?!” Who can I ever meet now? How did we get so lost? And how crazy that Brenda didn’t wear shoes ... and how could she run out of gas, take my money and make me walk? On. My. Big. Asian. Friendship. Day.

I wanted to feel injustice.

But...truly, the laughter kept bubbling out of me.

Okay, this is gonna hafta be a God-thing. If you want me to have a speaker for the class, You are gonna have to arrange it.

Five weeks later. “Class, I’d like you to meet Ms. Veni Mudiam from India. Please give her a big Mercyhurst welcome!”

Thank you, God. You not only share a laugh or two with me through my absurd and frequent calamities, You use them to purposefully turn me toward You. This way, I can’t miss Your hand in my life. Blind or not, I can still see You clearly.

You always have the right connections.

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