Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Somebody Must Be Tryin’ to Tell Me Something

At this rate, I’ll never get my introductory posts finished for my new blog launch! However this is something that happened to me just tonight, Tuesday evening. It had a pretty big impact on me, so I felt the need to share it.

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Rainy-Day Tuesdays
I mentioned earlier that this will be a busy week, and one of the activities occupying three nights of it is NHL Hockey.

I’ve been a season ticket holder of the Nashville Predators since the 2000-2001 NHL season. I’ve followed the Preds in that capacity from their third year of existence, watching them develop from expansion-team futility into one of only five teams to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs currently four seasons running.

Yet for all their apparent success, they’ve never made it out of the first playoff round, and that lack of ability to take the next step has hurt more than just the pride of an organization almost universally regarded as one of the best run in all the NHL. In addition to the obvious ‘so-close-yet-so-far’ frustration felt by everyone — especially the fans — it also seems to perpetuate the nagging cloud of doubt that has hovered over this team from the beginning: will Nashville support an NHL team in a city with a sports mentality dominated football and basketball?

Well, thankfully, this story isn’t gonna tackle that question. However it was necessary to bring it up in order to set the mood I was in tonight as I headed down to the Sommet Center to watch our team take on the visiting Colorado Avalanche.

This season has been especially frustrating, mostly because the Predators aren’t scoring like they have in years past. But I’m not even gonna talk about that, except to say that this current dearth of biscuits-in-the-basket had led directly to what going in to tonight’s game was a four game losing streak — three of which have been at home, where the team usually performs extremely well, even in bad years.

After becoming so used to all the successful home cookin’ the Preds have enjoyed the past three seasons, in which they’ve had the second-best home record in all the NHL, seeing that trend come to an apparent abrupt halt has been buggin’ the hell out of me.

It’s gotten to the point that tonight, while I should have been confident and excited in anticipation of seeing my team begin the turnaround of their recent woes, my attitude was much more ensconced in worrisome anticipation of what bad thing was going to happen next.

Add to that the fact that the weather was lousy: 40something degree temps in a steady, cold rain. Add again the fact that I was also going to the game alone, as Michelle had to run our dog, Spotty, to the vet because her neck had swollen to twice it’s normal size during the day today. Our doggie is fifteen and a half years old, so any kind of health problem at this point in her life could indeed be very serious.

So here I am, with all these things going on, already miserable, and walking the last of my typical six-block jaunt from where I usually parking for free, down to the arena.

As I approached the last crossing prior to my destination, there on the corner stood a young man, soaked to the skin in the rain. I was already late, so I really didn’t notice his behavior until I was but a few feet from him, near the crosswalk. I say this because I don’t know whether he was beckoning each and every person walking by for money or if it was just lucky ol’ me, but as I approached him, I knew the look in his eye. It was no surprise when he softly asked, “Sir, could you spare a dollar so I can go buy a cheeseburger?”

Now if the dude had been wearing a LOLCats t-shirt, I probably would have stopped and pulled out a buck or two just for the irony of the situation.

Just kidding; actually…I wouldn’t. And that’s the problem.

Divine Intervention
Again, I don’t pretend to assume that I know what anyone else would do in that situation. I know there are a lot of folks who would have had compassion on the guy and given him the money as asked, or more. I know there are some folks who would have even offered to take him to McDonald’s and buy him an entire meal. And I also know that are those who wouldn’t have even acknowledged his presence; their response would have been to just keep on walking.

As for me, while my polite nature wouldn’t allow me to completely ignore him, my hard heart didn’t exactly embrace his situation, either.

In response to his tentative entreaty I quickly replied, Nosir, I’m afraid I don’t have anything for you, today” and I continued on across the street, towards the arena.

Almost immediately I felt a pang of anguish stab me in the gut. I said to myself, “Man, I wish I hadn’t just done that!”

I continued my hurried pace toward the arena’s side entrance, still another 50 yards ahead, beating myself up more and more with every step. At least three times I thought, “why don’t you just turn around and go back and give the man a lousy dollar! That’s all he asked you for.”

But in response a thousand other voices in my head simultaneously shouted down the better angels of my nature, warning of everything from possibly being robbed at knife point to the cynical suggestion that dude would just go spend that dollar on crack or booze.

But no matter how much I tried to take solace in the cautions being justified by my conscious mind, my heart was making me miserable. I felt horrible.

My mind decided, “If he’s still standing there after the game, I’ll be sure to give him a few bucks.”

My heart shot right back, “He won’t BE THERE after the game, you idiot!”


Then something — or someone — intervened.

I was less than a few feet from the turn down to the arena side entrance when I spotted something. I really couldn’t believe my eyes.

There, lying on the wet sidewalk, still partially dry, was a one dollar bill — folded lengthwise and then again in half. From the second I spotted it, ten feet away, I knew what I had to do.

I reached down to snatch it off the sidewalk, did an about-face, and burst into a full sprint back to the corner, 50 yards up the street, to where the young man was still standing in the rain.

As I approached him, I’m not even sure if he recognized me as anyone with whom he’d already spoken.

I reached out my hand and said, “I swear to God, I just found this lying on the sidewalk. I think it was meant to be yours.” I handed him the twice-folded bill and began backpedaling across the street, again in the direction of the arena.

His countenance beamed as he realized what it was I’d placed in his palm.

“Hey! That’ll hellp!” He said with a big grin, “Thanks! And God bless you!”

“God bless you as well, Sir,” I called back and continued on to my hockey game.

Y’know, I didn’t once think about him spending that buck on anything illicit; it didn’t matter. Giving it to him was what had to be done. Besides, I’ve given money to panhandlers dozens of time before, and I think I know by how they receive it, just how much they need it, and whether it’s for something to make them better off or something to make them worse.

But the vibe/reaction from this guy told me all I needed to know.

This was one of the weirdest, most blatantly obvious divine interventions I’ve ever been involved with. And pardon me if you think that’s an idiotic way to look at it, but that’s my take-away from this thing.

Sure it could have been a coincidence, but I can tell you — I just don’t find money lying on the sidewalk all that often, do you? And given that the man had asked me for that exact amount? I mean, c’mon.

But the point of this whole thing isn’t about what a great benevolent human being AJ is. But rather, it’s just the opposite.

I hardened my heart to some one who asked me for a FREAKING DOLLAR, which I most certainly had to give him, but refused, and then tried to justify it by assuring myself that I’d done the right thing.

Nevertheless, someone needed to set me straight; almost as if to say, “Okay, if you don’t know how to do it, allow me to show you.”

This was an intervention, folks; a heart intervention for AJ.

So what does it mean, really? I haven’t a clue, except that I know somebody was trying to tell me something; something like, “it really doesn’t belong to you anyway — why not use it with a heart of compassion rather than one of stone?”

I also believe it means I need to start listening to that still, small voice — even when the big, loud ones are doing their level best to drown it out.

Maybe that should be my first New Year’s resolution for 2009.

The second? Hmmm…

Maybe I should just stop worrying about the Predators so much.

Meh…it’s a thought….

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