The Obstacle is the Path

January 17, 2015

"The obstacle is the path." A Zen proverb.


How many times do the things that appear to be in our way actually turn out to be what guides us and helps us to move forward, experience joy, change our perspective, provide direction to discover answers toward goal attainment, or deepen our  understanding of a problem and its solution? An obstacle and its resulting experience last week have compelled me to write this blog entry. It is still with me in such a profound way that I must write about it in hopes that it may help others, or at least offer a moment to stop, smile, and in the face of all the negative world news, renew any lost faith in humanity.


Some people believe all things happen for a reason. Others do not. I am not here to tell you which one is right, but I did experience a domino effect of events that led to my experience. I'm not sure how far back the dominos really go, but I can go back at least a few.


My dog is currently enrolled in an obedience class on Tuesday nights. Last Tuesday my kids had a mandatory sports team meeting, so we had to take our dog to a make-up class. However, it wasn't at our regular class location. It was at another location on the other side of town about 25 minutes away with the traffic that night. We made up the class on Thursday night.


On the way home, I was stopped at a fork in the road. To the right traffic flowed freely. To the left, I would encounter a red light but a more direct route home. I waited for the light and turned left. Up ahead an elderly woman's car had broken down and she was alone. Her car was almost in the intersection. It was dark out and difficult to see her or the car. I was in the left-hand turn lane, but had my daughter roll down her window. I called across three lanes of traffic, "Excuse me. Do you need help?"


"Yes! Please. Oh, thank you!" she responded.


"OK, I'm going to turn around and come back to help you."


"God Bless You!" she called.


I turned around and went back. As I arrived, three young men who were strangers crossing the street at that time had stopped to help move her car out of the street and into a lighted parking lot on the corner. One of the young men, in his early twenties, put down his dinner he had just purchased and opened the hood of her car. He used the light on his phone to check around and see if he could solve the problem. He then offered a few ideas.


As time went on, the two other men left and went on their way, but this man and I stayed with this woman. Her name was Maryanne. She did not have a cell phone, so she handed me her AAA card and I called for her. She then spent time talking to AAA about her problem before a tow truck was dispatched to our location. She also shared the long history of her car, as well as the adviced her deceased husband had given her about the car when he was still alive. She remebered these memories with great smiles, laughter and joy.


As we waited for the tow truck, she and I learned that the young man helping, Peter, worked for his bother's painting company. Amazingly, she had been thinking about getting some painting work done in her house and was so happy to meet someone who could do the work, and about whom she felt comfortable coming into her home. She couldn't believe her luck!


Peter was also a pretty good mechanic and understood a good deal of what might be going on. I had jumper cables in my car, so I pulled my car around to see if I could give her a jump. That didn't work. Then I got behind her wheel, and Peter and I worked together to try out some of his theories. I gave it some gas as he tinkered under the hood. That didn't work either. I got out of the car and stood near Maryanne. We talked and talked. She couldn't believe how lucky she was to cross paths with us, and that we were still there with her. Maryanne tried to convince us both that she would be fine waiting in her car for the tow truck. Peter and I were not leaving. Maryanne and I discovered that we had similar backgrounds and enjoyed each other's company.


She reached into her car, brought out a jacket and told me to put on the jacket and stay warm. I tried to explain I was fine, but she insisted. So, I put on the jacket. I admit, I was warmer. While we were all talking, the AAA tow truck arrived. The driver assessed the situaiton and got the car started. Peter, Maryanne and I exchanged phone numbers before the tow truck driver decided to follow her home. Hugs all around. The tow truck driver was so touched by this situation that he commented on how fortunate Maryanne was that night. She agreed.


She said goodbye to my kids and my dog, and blew kisses as she got into her car. The tow truck indeed followed her home. A few minutes after I arrived home, my phone rang. It was the tow truck driver calling to let me know that Maryanne got home OK, and that because of how nice we all were, and how I had stopped to help, that he was not going to log the phone call so that I would still have my full amount of calls in case I needed them again.


While I certainly did not expect that gesture of kindness, I was very glad I decided to turn left at the fork in the road that night. Maryanne did wind up calling Peter for some painting jobs around her house. She and I have spoken several times and we plan to continue to do so. I'm happy to say that I made a new friend that night, and I'm even happier that my kids saw people demonstrating genuine kindness for no other reason than it was the right thing to do. Turning left also made me realize how important it is to be available outside of a routine and a schedule so that we can allow for the opportunities that are around us to experience the beauty and joy of life.


The obstacle is the path. Embrace your next obstacle. You never know the joy you may experience because of it.

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© 2014 by Wendy P. Jones.