40: Wrong Turn or Right?

40: Wrong Turn or Right?

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miracles Happen

Wrong Turn or Right?

Chance is perhaps the pseudonym of God when he did not want to sign.

~Anatole France

I had just finished my grocery shopping, and it was already dark outside. The parking lot was lit, but everyone walked quickly, watching for anyone in the shadows who’d grab a purse or grocery bag. The proximity of other shoppers made me feel safe and I hoped my presence did the same for them. Speedily I tossed milk and ice cream in the trunk, checked the inside of the car for intruders, then got in and locked the door. The front seat of the car was still cozy warm from the Arizona sun, cozy enough to make me drowsy. I turned on the A/C and struggled to stay alert for pedestrians.

Once on the wide street home, I could relax, enjoy the evening and think of the food my family would soon eat. The traffic light at a busy intersection turned red. I stopped without thinking of much more than the ice cream in the trunk. It would be softened and easy to scoop! Yum! As if on automatic pilot, I turned right. Oh no! I’d meant to wait for the green light and go straight ahead toward home. Now I was heading in a totally different direction and would need to make a U-turn. No problem; there’d be a break in the traffic to get into the left lane.

Absentmindedly I kept skimming along the far right curb. As the next traffic light turned red I realized it was too late to make a U-turn. I had three lanes of traffic between me and where I wanted to go. Paused at the stoplight, I blasted the A/C and took a deep breath. Wake up! Look where you’re going! Just across the intersection, I saw a pharmacy with a large parking lot—a good place to turn around.

That’s when I spotted a familiar person, standing at the shadowy edge of the parking lot. It was my friend, Amy, her leg in a brace and her hands full of shopping bags. She was surrounded by three young men in black muscle shirts, their heads shaved and arms covered in tattoos. It didn’t look safe for Amy. She did not have a car and was trying to get past the group to a bus stop.

Quickly I turned into the parking lot, honked the horn and shouted, “Hi, Amy, do you need a ride?”

She looked relieved to recognize my old clunker of a car. Quietly and politely, she nodded goodbye to the men and said, “God bless you.” Before she even finished speaking, the three guys slipped through the shadows and disappeared. Amy jumped in the car and locked the door. She said the men wanted money to ride the bus, the same bus she would have ridden home, alone. She had stalled in finding her purse, saying kind things to disarm them, wondering what to do next. And then I arrived with a car and a loud voice. As we left the parking lot, we spotted the three men getting onto the bus. They had bus money after all.

I drove Amy to her house, waited until she got safely inside with her shopping bags, and then drove home. By then I’d forgotten all about the ice cream and didn’t care if it had melted. My husband was glad to see me home. “We worry when you’re out after dark.”

“Oh, don’t worry about me,” I said, blowing it off and unpacked the groceries. The next day we saw on TV a mug shot of a man who looked just like one in the group that had stopped Amy. He was one of a team of robbers arrested for armed theft near the pharmacy where I’d accidentally driven.

Talking with another friend Lydia, I told her how I’d made a wrong turn, overshot my neighborhood and ended up by the pharmacy. It had been dark and yet I spotted our friend Amy and recognized her need for help. Lydia gasped as she realized how close the danger had been and how unusual it was for me to get turned around driving. “Someone was looking out for Amy.” And I knew Who the “Someone” was.

~Genie Eide Stoker

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