Sunday, October 30, 2011

Gifts from the Universe

Years ago, my husband’s brother introduced me to the concept of gifts from the Universe. In fact he’d furnished most of his home with such gifts, like a couch with a “Free to Good Home” sign put out in a driveway, and a lamp found in a dumpster. All of his pets over the years were animals that appeared as  manna from heaven on his doorstep.

Now, on a trip to the East Coast, a wandering lovely drive through small towns and scenic byways, the Universe has delivered several such gifts.

At a campground in Arkansas, the neighbors in the next campsite left behind a perfectly serviceable folding chair. It has a tiny burn hole in the cloth seat. The right armrest tends to slide down, a defect easily fixed with a strip of duct tape.

On a set of steeply descending stairs leading to a waterfall at Stone Mountain, North Carolina, there was a small rubber tip for a walking stick on one of the steps. My own collapsible walking cane had no tip on the bottom, but now it does. It was a perfect fit and just what I’d been wishing for since the sharp point on my stick was a bit slippery on some of those wet rock trails.

At another campground, a pair of expensive woolen hiking socks had been forgotten and left hanging from a short piece of clothesline between two bushes. The socks and the line would come in handy eventually.

Some gifts are more work than they are worth, like the wrecked director’s chair my friend Aroop found on the side of the freeway. It was an effort to fetch it from the side of a busy interstate. The chair back poles were broken, and the material was in tatters. He patched up the poles with flat sticks, lots of glue and twine, while I purchased canvass and sewed up a new back and seat.  Hours of work later, he had an odd looking but workable director’s chair.

It’s best not to ask the Universe for a gift. When I first moved to Los Alamos, NM, I was unable to sell my house in Albuquerque. So I purchased the cheapest housing I could find, one quarter of a Quad, a two story affair with a kitchen that had been badly remodeled by the previous owner. There were no upper cabinets! One day, frustrated by the poor layout with a refrigerator that hid the washing machine, I said out loud, “I wish we could bulldoze this damn place and start over!”

Three weeks later the Cerro Grande Fire swept through the mountains and destroyed 400 homes in the town, including our Quad. Six weeks later, after digging in the ashes for anything that might be salvageable, bulldozers came to knock down the foundation and level the lot. The Universe had delivered precisely what I’d asked for. But I never intended it to affect so many other people!!

Gifts come in the form of people. Individuals who help anonymously or behind the scenes, mentors who take an interest in the future of others, teachers and preachers. The communities in which we live, that foster our dreams and provide resources so we can accomplish more than we can by ourselves, are gifts just as WE are a gift to the community we live in. Friends and family play such a role in our lives, they too are gifts that often go unrecognized.

Some things are so commonplace we don’t actually recognize them as Gifts from the Universe. Americans and Europeans, certainly, won the lottery of the womb….born into the most technologically advanced time in human history, in wealthy countries where women and minorities have been treated better and given more opportunities than they had historically. As a result of winning that lottery we don’t starve to death, we have potable water coming out of every faucet, we even wash our cars and bodies with drinking water! We live longer and healthier. We can easily traverse our own countries and for a pittance really, the entire world. More technology presents more challenges for those creative people who invent and produce. While people can and should take credit for advances in technology and medicine, it was the chance of our births that put us here in this time frame.

The Universe’s great gift to me has been this life. This life where I have resources to travel, to experience the world and its multitude of cultures. This life, every second of it, has been a gift from the Universe, and for that I am eternally grateful.