A friend of mine–a woman named Maria–recommended a book to me once. It was 2015 and things were tough. They weren’t I’m dying of cancer or I’m about to lose our house tough, but they weren’t easy.
She recommended a book, a quirky romantic comedy called Kumquat, by a horror writer named Jeff Strand. A really, really demented horror writer named Jeff Strand. Never in a thousand years would I pick such a book on my own. And most demented horror writers wouldn’t write a book that could be called sweet and uplifting without a hint of irony.
The book is about a guy named Todd who’s in his early thirties, works a dead-end job, and is existing in a life that doesn’t consider the possibility of even quiet desperation. He meets a woman named Amy who may or may not die at any moment of an inoperable brain aneurysm. Together, because she convinces him to do it, they take a spur of the moment road trip from Florida to a hot dog stand in Rhode Island.
At one point, Todd does something good and decent that’s quickly forgotten in the unfolding plot. Later, he’s recognized by people. It turns out that the good, decent thing he did went viral.
At the time the book was exactly what I needed. It refreshed my soul.
A book about a forgotten event that picked someone up became a forgotten event that picked someone up.
I’m no saint. But when they used to collect tolls on the Veteran’s Expressway, once every few days, I’d pick up the toll for the person behind me. And then for a while, a men’s group I’m in met at the hospital cafeteria for St. Joseph’s North in Lutz, Florida. I’d always buy a coffee there before the meeting. And often, I’d pay for two and let the next person through have a freebie.
The things we do don’t have to always be grand and sweeping. Sometimes they can be small and insignificant. The extra toll. The next cup of coffee. A sweet book for a friend that has a hard time.
In Bruce Almighty, Jim Carrey’s character talks a lot about miracles. One of the best quotes ever in a movie was from God. It’s a long one, not suited for a bumper sticker but it’s worth staying to the end.
“Parting your soup is not a miracle, Bruce, it’s a magic trick. A single mom who’s working two jobs, and still finds time to take her kid to soccer practice, that’s a miracle. A teenager who says “no” to drugs and “yes” to an education, that’s a miracle. People want Me to do everything for them, but what they don’t realize is, they have the power. You want to see a miracle, son? Be the miracle.”
Miracles are often hard. But not always. Maybe someone picked up a toll for the single mom and it got her through a difficult day. Maybe the teenager was all set to give in until someone who cared let it show. Maybe someone saw a friend having a hard time and recommended a book.
Miracles aren’t limited to five-decades old baseball teams, or to Catholic saints, or to neurosurgeons.
The world is angry enough. It needs miracles. And God’s not gonna do them all.