There’s a rhythm to life, a strong, regular, repeated pattern of doing the right thing at the right time. Every minute of every day, we are either in or out of rhythm. I gained a true appreciation for this a few days ago as I rang in the new year.
In October, I received a $250 gift card for Eddie V’s, an upscale seafood restaurant in Pittsburgh. It’s not the typical restaurant at which I would treat my kids to a dinner because it’s very expensive. My 15-year old son typically eats two dinners, so I estimated he’ll account for $200 of the $250. My 12-year old daughter typically eats chicken fingers and fries, and I didn’t see that on the menu. However, I did notice a nice crab legs appetizer I hoped she’d eat. Nonetheless, I decided to take the risk and booked a 5 pm New Year’s Eve reservation at Eddie V’s.
At that time, the valet was not working so I had to park my SUV in a nearby parking garage. I dropped my family off at the restaurant and proceeded to the garage. It had been a few years since I parked in this particular garage and was unaware that the maximum height was lowered to just 6 ft. I had assumed my SUV would fit from what my memory served as the old height clearance, but I was suddenly worried about the new height limit.
As I pulled the ticket, the gate opened and I slowly proceeded under the height bar. The first few inches appeared to be OK. I winced as I listened for the noise of the steel bar rubbing my roof rack. Nothing. Whew.
Then about half-way through, I heard the bar hit and rub the rest of the way. Shoot, I thought to myself. I’m in, but now what should I do?
I heard an attendant yell, “Hey, what are you doing? That thing’s too big for this garage.”
I said, “I’m sorry. It seemed like it would fit, but by the time I realized it, it was too late. I was in. What should I do?”
At that moment, I expected him to instruct me to turn around and exit the garage without going any further.
“I’ll take care of you. Just leave it there with the keys in it.,” he answered
Wow! How nice of him, I thought. “Thank you so much sir.,” I replied.
That act of kindness made the rest of the evening perfect. Without it, I would have had to circle the streets of Pittsburgh looking for a spot on New Years Eve. Needless to say, it would not have been easy.
After dinner, I left my family behind at the restaurant to get my SUV and realized I only had a $20 and $50 bill in my wallet. In my mind, I was planning to tip the friendly attendant $10. That was a fair tip, given the cost to park was $6. What to do?
I arrived at the garage, saw my truck and the attendant. At that moment, I made a poor decision. I did not do what I should have done. I thanked him, told him how much I appreciated his help and proceeded to exit the garage without tipping him. I felt bad, really bad. After all, I did not have $10 to give him. Rightfully so, he looked visibly disappointed and didn’t say anything except, “You’re welcome.“
I could have asked if he had change for a $20, but that didn’t seem right. I could have said I needed to get change and will be back, but thought that would only elicit a “Yeah, right.” Instead, I drove off saying nothing, but thinking I’ll get change for my $20.
As I circled back to pick up my family on Pittsburgh’s busy Grant Street, getting change wasn’t in the cards. “Boy, did I botch this up,” I said to myself. At that time, I finally made the right decision.
I drove back to the garage, turned on my SUV’s flashing hazard warning lights and looked for the friendly attendant. We made eye contact.
He asked, “Where did you come from?”
I replied, “I wanted to give this to you. Happy New Year. Thank you for being so nice to me.“
I handed him the $20. He was so surprised. “Thank you, man. I appreciate it. Happy New Year.”
The next morning on New Year’s Day, I had to run out to get gas. I pulled up to the pump at my local GetGo, got out of my SUV, loosened my fuel cap and heard someone say, “Excuse me, are you a local?“
I looked up to see who was talking and suspiciously answered, “Yes, I live around here.“
“The Lord told to me to approach you. I’m driving from North Dakota to Philadelphia. I was wondering if you would help me?,” he asked.
“What did you have in mind? What kind of help do you need?,” I asked.
“I’m recently divorced and on my way to a new life. I have a job lined up in Philly. I need gas to get there and a little food. I’m a carpenter and have a job waiting for me. I just need a little help.,” he answered.
There was something about this guy. He was genuine, credible. I looked at his car. It had North Dakota plates. It also looked like it had been on the road for awhile and been through all sorts of weather.
I normally don’t have cash on me, but I still had the $50 bill in my wallet from the night before. I said to him, “I’ll believe that you’re telling me the truth. I have $50 on me. Would that be enough?“
He nodded affirmatively. I handed him the $50.
He then asked, “Are you a SEAL?” (I was wearing my SEAL Team hat).
“Actually, no, but my brother-in-law is in the Navy, and I love the SEALs.,” I humbly replied.
“I think they tell you guys not to tell anyone you are.,” he replied smiling and grateful.
That was the last thing he said to me as I proceeded to fill up my tank and watch him top off his tank and buy a little food.
Walking in the Spirit
These two experiences touched my heart. They taught me there is a rhythm to life. Learning to do the right thing at the right time takes skill. People who believe in God, as I do, label that skill “walking in the Spirit.” The deeper your relationship with God grows, the better you get at that skill. Sometimes God’s Spirit leads you to run fast. Other times, He leads you to walk slowly. Knowing when to act fast and when to act patiently is part of mastering the skill. Both scenarios require balancing action and discernment.
This year, God will put people in your life with needs. Some may be physical needs. Others emotional, mental or spiritual. Don’t withhold good from those who deserve it when it’s in your power to help them. If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done.
There’s never a perfect time to do anything. All of us must quickly carry out the tasks assigned to us by God, for there is little time left before our work comes to an end.