We all have stories. In life’s journey there are many encounters. Some are planned; some are by accident; and some by divine intervention.
In my case, I have been fortunate enough to have many encounters that can only be from ‘divine intervention’.
I left home at 17 on March 16th in the mid 80’s. Although, there is nothing unusual about a teenager leaving home for college at that age, many years later as I write this blog on this particular weekend, I can’t help but feel like Paulo Coelho’s ‘Warrior of the Light’ for what happened on that journey. More interestingly, what has followed on since then!
It was a day I remember vividly. Sometime after midnight, leaving my worried parents and a few close family members behind, I boarded a British Airways flight to London and then to St. Louis, Missouri. Before the plane started to take off, I never imagined how simultaneously frightening and exciting moments can be. Even though I had confidence, I had no idea what I had just signed up for.
I was on my way to Carbondale, Illinois — a place I had no real idea of, no friends, no family members, and for sure no certainty (financially or emotionally)! But I was determined to get an ‘education’ and make something of my life.
From London, I sat next to an Indian woman in her 60s, who was visiting her family in St. Louis. We had no more than 10 to 15 words of general pleasantries. When we landed at the St. Louis airport, the reality of my situation hit me hard. Here I was in a foreign country with no travel experience to speak of and barely speaking the language. I didn’t even know how to use a coin-operated Coke machine!
In the baggage area, as I was waiting for my luggage, a young woman in her mid twenties approached me to know what flight I was on. She was waiting for her aunt. Little did I know that her aunt was the same woman who sat next to me. I picked up my luggage and in utter fear realized that I had no idea how to go to Carbondale or what to do next! It was already 7:00 at night. Standing there in the middle of all the hustle and bustle my entire life flashed before my eyes.
The young woman and her aunt found each other and then approached me, asking if I was alright and where I was headed. I must have looked dazed and confused! I told them my destination. The aunt said she was touched my ‘kindness’ on the plane. To date, I don’t know what kindness that would be! They insisted I had no choice but to go with them and spend the night at their home before sorting out my next move.
They not only opened up their home and heart to me, but the next morning they took me to a family from Bangladesh (where both husband and wife happened to be doctors at local hospitals in St. Louis). By complete coincidence, they knew of my family back home. Together they set me up with the Southern Illinois University foreign students association, and the rest of my life’s journey began.
A couple of years later, I transferred to the University of Minnesota, Duluth on a full scholarship. I made many close friends from many parts of the world in Duluth. One of them was a young Indian man who was going to business school. One night, he declared that he was headed to St. Louis to visit his close relatives. Almost a year after his visit to St. Louis, we were sitting in my apartment near Lake Superior, and through conversation we discovered that his close relatives happened to be the same Indian family who picked me up from the airport! Needless to say my jaw dropped! It was a coincidence that awed me at that time and still does.
Since then I have had many of these types of amazing ‘Chance Encounters’. Encounters where it seems as if the universe rallied to come to my aid when I needed the help most. They have occurred when least expected — and many of the people I’ve encountered have become friends and family. I can name at least four instances in the last 60 days alone, but those are stories for another time.
In recent years, I have discovered Paulo Coelho’s writings – especially The Alchemist and the Warrior of the Light. Now it is no doubt in my mind that ‘Life really is generous to those who pursue their Personal Legend’. He writes in Warrior of the Light:
A warrior of light knows that he has much to be grateful for.
He was helped in his struggle by the angels; celestial forces placed each thing in its place, thus allowing him to give of his best.
His companions say: ‘He’s so lucky!’ And the warrior does sometimes achieve things far beyond his capabilities. That is why, at sunset, he kneels and gives thanks for the Protective Cloak surrounding him.
His gratitude, however, is not limited to the spiritual world; he never forgets his friends, for their blood mingled with his on the battlefield.
A warrior does not need to be reminded of the help given him by others; he is the first to remember and he makes sure to share with them any rewards he receives.
And on this Saturday in July, 2008 I couldn’t agree more! Words to live life by!