This I Believe

Kari - Galloway, Ohio
Entered on December 18, 2007

This I believe – someone, somewhere has been looking out for me for most of my life. I call it my guardian angel. She isn’t the Hallmark card kind, with feathered wings and white flowing robes; she is the kind that quietly slips into the cracks of my daily life and gives me a push when I need it. Sometimes it is a tap on the shoulder…an urge to be aware of something I may have missed otherwise.

This I believe – my guardian angel has given me the gift of just the right people at just the right moment to bless my life in unexpected ways. Sometimes people cross your path just when you need them the most.

Take my friend, Beth. We met at a party. Neither one of us was very excited to go, nor were we very close to the hostess of this shindig. Beth was coming in while I was putting on my coat to leave. I had my husband and two kids in tow–already bundled up for the rainy, cold evening walk to the car.

The hostess breezed through the room, saw Beth, then me, and quickly introduced us. “Beth has horses. Karen used to ride,” she said, as if no other introduction was necessary. As our hostess walked away through the crowded kitchen, Beth and I looked at each other. We smiled, did the party introduction – the one I’d done with a dozen other people that same evening. But then she said, “Why don’t you come ride sometime?”

I thought, sure…this woman doesn’t know me from Eve. There is no way she is serious. So I smiled politely, explained that I hadn’t ridden in almost 10 years, but that I’d truly love to ride again. I had planned to politely decline–not because I didn’t want to ride, but because I was so sure she didn’t really mean the invitation. She just couldn’t really want a total stranger riding her horses. Then she smiled at my kids and told me to bring them along to ride, too. (Another push, perhaps, from that guardian angel?)

So–I took a chance. I thought maybe, just maybe, I’d ride again. I’d been dreaming of riding for a few years now; scheming and planning on how I could find the money and time to get back to it. Horses had been part of my life forever–at least until I started my family. As my kids grow, I’d fantasized about how I could show them the joys of horses.

I grew up riding a little gray Arabian pony, living at the barn every summer day and most winter ones, as well. In high school, I worked at our stable–feeding 40 horses just to be near them. I went to college and ended up spending more time at the university stables than I did in my dorm. I identified myself as a “rider”. I was a horse person before I was a girl, before I was an English Major, before I was a sister or a friend. I was a horse person before I was anything else. It had been more than a hobby, more than a sport. It had been part of the definition of me. And I missed it terribly. There was a part of my soul that longed for the smell of hay bales, the dusty brushes and barns, the warmth of the horse’s breath blowing into my hands.

So, a few days later, I took a deep breath and sent an email to Beth. “What if…?” I thought. “What if she did mean it?”

A few phone calls later, we agreed to meet one evening. We stood in her small, two stall barn and talked. We groomed horses. I got that smell back in my nose–the one that is part horse, part dirt and part leather with a little manure thrown in. I felt some dark space inside lighten up a little. I felt like I’d come home.

I worried for a while (because that’s what I do–I worry) that this whole agreement was so one-sided that Beth would send me a message one day telling me she didn’t think it was working out. I had agreed to do manual labor for her–clean stalls, groom horses, clean tack–in exchange for time to ride. I didn’t feel like I could do enough for her to make it fair. I couldn’t imagine how I could pay her for her generosity by doing barn chores that weren’t work to me. With every pitchfork full or every soapy piece of leather, I felt at peace. How do you pay someone back for that?

It has been a year since we met at that party neither one of us really wanted to go to. A year since my guardian angel stepped in and made Beth walk through that door before I’d walked out. Almost a year – and more hours of riding, talking, sweating and laughing than I can count. I’m a better person for having met her; and when I leave her house–driving down the long driveway, looking at the horses grazing in their paddock and that long stretch of wooden fence–I thank my angel for the gift of a new friend who somehow had the power in her hands to remind me what it feels like to have the warm breath of a horse blow into mine.