Earlier in the day I had been a little ticked at my dear husband. The work commitment that had kept him from coming with me a day earlier had miraculously disappeared, and while I was glad that he would be able to see our son graduate from the Army’s Ranger School, I wasn’t happy to spend three hours of my short visit driving back and forth on an unknown road in an unknown car. At least, I had thought, our son had returned to base for the night, so I wasn’t losing time with him.
But by the time I left Columbus, there wasn’t any room in my heart for annoyance. A series of miracles, all small enough that they might have been mistaken for coincidences had they not been stacked up one after the other like dominoes, had left my heart filled with gratitude and wonder. My son’s car had died, but it had done so in a restaurant parking lot instead of on a lonely, dark highway. Two strangers had helped him push it into a parking space. We’d driven in two cars, so my son wouldn’t return to base late. A call to AAA had brought Roy, a gentle giant of a tow truck driver who’d helped me get the broken-down car to a repair shop, then had insisted on driving me back to my hotel. Roy had warned me about dangerous truck stops and deer on the road, and sent me on my way with a prayer for my safety. I drove along singing hymns and praise songs and offering up long, rambling prayers of praise.
God wasn’t my only guide on the road that night. In her flat monotone, the Google Maps voice informed me about every upcoming turn. Still, the Atlanta airport is a huge facility, with a north and south terminal. I read every sign twice, worried that I’d end up in a permanent holding pattern around the airport without ever finding the right place to park. The signage seemed clear, and it agreed with Ms. Maps. I felt confident as I drove my car towards the parking lot’s automatic ticket booth.
Until I reached out to push the button, where the word INTERNATIONAL was written across the top of the machine. My heart lurched. How had I arrived at the wrong parking area? What was I to do? I looked in the rear view mirror. Although I saw no traffic behind me, the thought of backing down a one-way ramp seemed suicidal. The only way to go, I decided, was forward: through the multistory parking garage and out the other side, where I could explain that I’d made a mistake. Hopefully, they’d see that I’d spent mere minutes in the lot and wouldn’t charge me. Maybe they’d guide me to the right lot, since Ms. Maps had failed me.
“I blew it,” I said as I handed the attendant my ticket. “I meant to park in domestic.”
The man looked over the top of his glasses at me. “This is the domestic lot,” he said.
“I’m picking up someone who’s coming in on Southwest,” I said.
He nodded. “Then you’re in the right place.”
For the second time that night I looked in the rearview mirror and considered driving in reverse. “Can I just back into the lot, then?”
The attendant shook his head. “Can’t go back in. But you can just park here, right next to the booth. I’ll watch your car for you.” Enough had happened already that day that I didn’t question the man. I thanked him for his kindness, parked the car, and walked into the terminal.
When my husband arrived, he got an earful about the smoking clutch, the giant angel named Roy, and my parking lot confusion. He smiled. He’s used to me parking in odd places. But when we got back to the car, it was not alone. A car was parked next to ours, and in it was a crying woman.
“Can you help me?” she asked. I’ve lost my credit card somewhere, and I’ve called home, but no one is answering. They won’t let me leave the lot unless I pay.” By now it was 2 am, and the woman figured that those at home had their phones on silence. She offered to give us her name, number and address, but my husband just smiled and paid her ticket.
“This one’s for Roy,” he said.
We finally made it to our hotel at 3 am, then had to get up at 6 to make it to graduation. I may have been running on fumes the next day, but they were good fumes.
It wasn’t until after graduation that the repair shop called with the bad news that repairs on my son’s car cost more than the value of the car, but that’s when I realized the final blessing of the weekend; my husband is good at many things, but he is the best negotiator I’ve ever known. That afternoon he and our son sat in two different dealerships and discussed buying a new car. By the time we flew home, my son had learned the fine art of the deal, and was the owner of a new car.
People helped us. We helped people. I am not sure if I know what the higher purpose was that weekend, but I am glad that I played a part in it all. God’s ways are mysterious. They may seem like mere coincidence. But I believe something far greater was at work on that night of miracles.