Walking through a Wal-Mart parking lot, I was surprised when a toddler shot past me. I looked to see where he came from and spotted his mother, halfway down the aisle of cars, yelling at him to stop.
He was laughing and giggling, barreling full-speed ahead toward the crosswalk. A large truck driving parallel to the store was approaching the crosswalk. There was no way the driver could see what, or who, was about to dart into his path.
I was ahead of the mom, but nowhere close to arm’s reach. The mother was yelling for the boy to stop. I yelled for the truck to stop — as though someone in a truck with windows rolled up could hear.
An older man, only a few feet from the door to the store, turned to look behind him. Providence turned his head to the right. Had he turned to the left, he would have missed everything. But turning to the right, he swept in the panorama: the approaching truck, the breakaway toddler, the distant mother.
Then, as though he had been training for this moment his entire life, the man took three broad strides and stood directly in the path of the oncoming truck, shielding the boy.
It was like having a front-row seat at a divine symphony. An unseen director cued the musicians and they played their parts with precision timing. The toddler crossed, the man stood still and the truck stopped.
When everyone resumed breathing, the momma was holding her boy, the hero disappeared into Wal-Mart and the truck drove away.
I wonder how many disasters are averted and we never know? How many times have we been rescued from a crosswalk and never known, never been able to say thanks?
Mothers have some faint idea of how these things work. The fact that certain models of children reach adulthood in one piece is evidence of the invisible hand of God.
Yet most of the time, we cross streets, change lanes, round corners and pass through the days of the week oblivious to the disasters skirting our path. We are unaware of how that second trip back into the house avoided a car accident. We have no comprehension of how orchestrated the casual conversations are that land us a job lead, the name of a specialist or a new idea for reviving a broken relationship.
The strings and the brass and the woodwinds play together, and we are unaware of the harmony.
When our children were young, we taught them to play a little game called “I Spy.” When they saw something happen that might have the fingerprint of God on it, they were to say, “I Spy!” It was an attempt to foster gratitude and cultivate the practice of seeing beyond the tangible.
What I witnessed in the Wal-Mart crosswalk was an “I Spy.” It was good to be reminded of divine symphonies silently at work.