A soul named Bob
It was recently brought to my attention that my driver’s license had expired and that I had been driving around town “illegally” for over two weeks. This troubled me, of course, because I immediately thought for sure Murphy’s Law would pay me a visit and I would, for the first time in years and years, now ironically get stopped by the police for a moving violation or a broken taillight or, worse yet, maybe find myself involved in an automobile accident, my expired license only adding to my misfortune. Yes, I was frantically writing my own best-selling “what if” story.
But my mind was also busy imagining a situation that perhaps, at least more immediately, was even worse than that — the dreaded thought of having to make an early Monday morning visit to the Department of Motor Vehicles to renew my lapsed license. Oh, just the thought of waiting in those long lines, only to be served by overly tired, underpaid, and under-appreciated government employees who spend long dreary days in a gray office with no windows, determined to suck all of us into their miserable lair. Thought by thought, I was erecting giant walls of resistance around me.
So I came up with a plan. I would be the very first one in line! That way I will avoid those long painful lines and maybe find myself fortunate enough to be served by someone at the DMV who hadn’t yet been worn down and numbed by a full day of monotony. Yes! That is what decided to do. So I smugly arrived at the DMV at 7:45 a.m., knowing they opened at 8:30 a.m., and feeling confident that I would be the first to arrive.
Except I wasn’t. I was not the first person in line. I was the second person in line.
And this is when I met Bob.
Bob is an 82-year-old gentleman who, like me, came to the DMV office to renew his driver’s license. But it did not take long for me to experience the “real” reason Bob was there.
Bob was there for me.
This soft-spoken, kind man, with a smile that extended into his eyes, thought that the driver’s license office opened at 8:00, only to discover that he now had 45 minutes to wait outside on the unforgiving hard sidewalk, with nowhere to sit, nowhere to rest his frail legs. But what he did have is someone to talk to, to share his life with, to laugh with, to be present with, someone who understood the much, much larger reason for his “mistake” in thinking the DMV opened at 8:00 and someone who also now understood the underlying purpose in my premeditated “plan” to beat the crowd.
I was there for Bob.
In those precious 45 minutes, I learned from Bob that he said goodbye to his life-long companion just six short months ago. And he misses her dearly. I could feel his sadness and deep love for her. I knew that Bob was experiencing her presence just by having someone to share her memory with, that her essence was alive and very real in our interaction with each other, and I was honored and profoundly touched to be chosen as a surrogate with whom Bob could once again experience her love and grace.
I learned from Bob that he wobbles when he walks sometimes. But he says he does not think of or label this as “stumbling” or “wobbling.” Bob says he is dancing. And in our short time together, Bob danced a lot. I wonder if in some of these seemingly unsteady moments his soul is engaging in a breathtaking waltz with his beautiful wife?
I learned from Bob that even though he is no longer able to travel around the country in his motor home as he once did with his Beloved Other, there is a wonderful channel on his Dish network that shows beautiful scenery from around the world — majestic mountains, tranquil beaches, and colorful fields of flowers. And if you get up really early in the morning, at 4:00 a.m., as he does, you can watch that program and “feel like you are right there. ” And “if you are a believer,” as Bob offered to me, “they even scroll some scripture across the bottom,” to which he gently and thoughtfully added, “if you want that.”
I learned from Bob that even though his life partner has continued on in her soul’s journey, he still greets each new dawn with purpose and appreciation. While he oftentimes yearns for the physical presence of his wife, he understands that he still has soul work to do and a life to live and experience – and he has decided to show up in his own life with humor, kindness, and intention.
There was a point in my life, not too very long ago, when I would have missed entirely the enormous gift being presented within this relationship and within this experience. There may have even been a time where I would have avoided this wonderful elderly gentleman altogether by inconspicuously burying my face in my phone or casually dismissing him with a polite smile. Boy, am I thankful I am not living in that space anymore.
My encounter with Bob is a reminder that what I think is going on isn’t always what is going on. My well-laid plan to beat the crowd at the DMV and to make sure that I avoided an uncomfortable personal experience had nothing to do with what I originally imagined. Bob and I had a soul agreement long before our bodies arrived at that particular location at that particular time and in that particular way.
How would our lives change if we viewed every person with whom we interacted as an intentional and purposeful gift? Have our souls chosen the people who are in our lives and those that are held within our next choice? Or are we just randomly bumping into each other? It is easy to view our own biological families and chosen partners and our children and friends as gifts. But what about the passers-by? What about the person next to you in line at the grocery store? What about the “overly tired, underpaid, and under-appreciated government employees who spend long dreary days in a gray office with no windows”?
We sometimes realize after-the-fact that something big, something of importance, something Divine has just taken place. But when we come to this same realization “in the moment” we are actually experiencing it, we can see the opportunity we are being given to remember a little bit more about who we are and why we are here, and we become powerful creators and flow-throughs of God’s love.
At 8:30 on the nose, the doors to the DMV opened and I followed Bob into the building. We parted ways to go to our respective service windows, immense feelings of gratitude welling up inside me. When I arrived to meet the person who would be assisting me that morning, the person to whom I had projected unfavorable predictions upon, the individual whose mere existence I was a short while ago resisting, I was warmly greeted with a radiant smile and a cheery, “Good morning! How may I help you today?” – and I immediately knew another opportunity was presenting itself to me.
(Lisa McCormack is the Managing Editor & Administrator of The Global Conversation. She is also a member of the Spiritual Helper team at www.ChangingChange.net, a website offering emotional and spiritual support. To connect with Lisa, please e-mail her at Lisa@TheGlobalConversation.com)