This I Believe

Carl - Saint Louis, Missouri
Entered on January 8, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: carpe diem

I believe in mystery. I believe we are surrounded by it, immersed in it, and, occasionally, not often, but inevitably, confronted by it … in jaw-dropping encounters that leave you wondering for the rest of your life what the hell just happened. And I believe one of our highest spiritual pursuits is the cultivation of an openness in which you stand ready to walk down that suddenly illuminated path, to find – well, that’s always the mystery.

One day many years ago, when my kids were still kids, my family and I set out on a drive. I don’t remember the mission that day, but on the list was a “fun hunt”. When daughter and son were too much under foot, wifey and I would pile them in the car and go out on a fun hunt, not really having any specific destination, but trusting that we would know it when we saw it. Frequently the kids would just flop in the seats grumbling “oh man, another fun hunt”, but sometimes it worked, keeping them occupied stalking the fun.

This particular day I was driving, heading north on a well-traveled St Louis city street near our house. We had rolled down this road a million times. Suddenly as I began to accelerate from one of the stop signs along the route, I got the irrepressible urge to turn right. It was a pretty dramatic maneuver, which attracted the predictable critical stare from the right seat. The kids in back, however, seemed to enjoy the g forces.

“We always go that way”, I said. “I just thought we could do with a change of scenery.” My wife settled in without further (audible) comment. At the next corner I threw caution to the wind, and turned left. I met my wife’s sideways glance with an “I don’t know” shrug, and we proceeded north again. In a block or so we were all back in our own little individual worlds once more – radio, a book, wherever it is kids go.

Then my daughter asked “Hey Dad, what’s that nun doing climbing that fence?”

This was luckily not a main thoroughfare. I came to a quick stop, and backed up about 50 feet. Sure enough, suspended ¾ of the way up the opposite side of an 8’ high chain link fence was an elderly nun, in full habit, wimple softly flapping in the wind.

My unflappable wife remarked “Well there’s something you don’t see every day.” We quickly parked the car and flung open the doors. Our team sprung into action. Wife and kids approached the scaling Sister to talk her down from her perch, while I ran to the front of the building to try to gain access and attention.

To make a wonderful story shorter, it turned out that the building was a residence for aging nuns. Our Fatima of the Fence was a kind, soft spoken resident. Suffering from dementia, she had managed to wander away from supervision. Her caretakers were gushing with gratitude for our rescuing her from a near certain fall.

My son remarked on the way back to the car that he guessed we had found the fun. I think that once again, mystery had found us.