Wisdom can be cheap. We tell a friend to let go of his anger after he confided in us about an unfortunate experience at work, yet the very same day we may fly into a frenzy when somebody cuts us off in traffic. It’s not that we are conscious hypocrites, but often the hustle and bustle of the practical world tends to cloud our nobler intentions. So we swear at the rogue driver, ignoring the subtler voice from our higher nature, echoing the very same advice we earlier gave to our friend.
But sometimes the worlds of practical and theoretical reality meet, and we do follow the call from our wiser self. Such moments may seem insignificant when they happen, but in hindsight they always make for significant memories…
The Mobile Restaurant
One Saturday morning a few weeks ago I found myself biking frantically through the Forest of Amsterdam, where our Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team organizes an annual six hour ultramarathon. It was about an hour to the start and I just found out that a local entrepreneur had been given a permit by the city council to serve food and drinks through his mobile restaurant to the visitors of the forest on this beautiful autumn day.
The problem was that the spot allocated to him happened to be right on our race course. In one hour forty runners would lap that spot every mile for the next six hours straight, undoubtedly bumping into his guests and stumbling over the chairs he had already stacked in front of his caravan to serve as a small terrace…
Grime and Grease
It had not been the only obstacle that morning. It had started with the discovery that we had forgotten to pack the canvas roofs of our counting tents. If it would start to rain our scoring sheets for counting the runners’ laps would be drenched and useless. Nobody had a clue where the tent roofs could be and if they still existed at all. ‘Perhaps we accidentally threw them out at the last race,’ someone suggested to everyone’s horror.
A half hour or so later I found myself staring at a closed iron gate, behind which the tables and benches for our counters and food helpers were stacked. The cricket club’s caretaker had assured me he would leave the gate open, but a firm pull at the gate’s lever told a different story.
‘What’s going on?’ I implored the heavens. No reply. Then when I thought things couldn’t possibly get any worse I ran into the entrepreneur of the mobile restaurant. Although he understood the problem of his establishment blocking our race course, he was loath to move since the permit was for this specific spot. He told me to talk to the lady who supervised the whole thing, gave me her number and said she was to be found at the entrance of the forest. I hurriedly turned my bike and raced back, currents of anxiety running through my veins.
Then my bike chain broke.
Normally it’s not a big deal since I can fling it back on in seconds. But today, as I had already figured out, wasn’t normal. The chain had come loose at both ends of the bike and refused to be put back. Grime and grease caked my hands.
A streak of sunlight
To make matters worse, we needed this bike for patrolling the race course as well. I was ready to let out a beastly roar, when all of a sudden I remembered one of my teacher Sri Chinmoy’s spiritual aphorisms:
Believe it or not,
Has the capacity
To turn all my calamities
Into divine blessings.” ((by Sri Chinmoy, From the book Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants, Part 241, made available to share under a Creative Commons license))
It was as if a streak of sunlight suddenly pierced the clouds. I restrained myself and with an effort of sheer will starting offering gratitude to God. I tried to convince myself He knew what He was doing. ‘Thank you Lord,’ I prayed, ‘for these seemingly unfortunate experiences. I’m sure it’ll all be all right in the end.’
In a sudden moment of clarity I realized I still had the lady’s phone number. I called her and explained the situation as calmly as I could, suggesting the entrepreneur could perhaps move his business to the other side of the road, even though the permit was for this side of the road and he could get in trouble for it. ‘No problem, he can move,’ she said to my utter relief. ‘It’s the responsibility of the council that gave out the permit. They should have known you had a race,’ she added. The entrepreneur seemed just as relieved as I was when I came running with the good news and shook my hand, smiling broadly. Problem one solved!
When I got back at the race site setup I saw problem two was solved as well, as the boys were just putting the canvas roofs on the tents. One of them had suddenly remembered where he left them back at the office. Although the office was in another town, our helpers from The Hague had swung by with their car to collect them on their way to Amsterdam.
Within minutes I had seen two calamities change into blessings. I was then reminded of my friend Vapushtara’s great technical skills and asked him if he could fix my broken bike. In ten minutes time the bike was good as new, saving me a 15 euro bike repair bill. The last problem of the closed iron gate actually proved the easiest. It turned out we could circumvent the gate by entering the cricket club through the neighboring tennis club gates. This priceless piece of information I received when I got through to the caretaker’s mobile phone on the first try.
And we then went on to have an awesome race. I never cease to be amazed by the power of gratitude…