The Word of God

You Sound Familiar

tipped over basket of apples

He was running late, as usual, and immediately noticed the unattended stubble on his chin and cheeks as he stared at himself with exasperated eyes. These last ten years had been pretty rough on his soul, but as his family and friends often remarked, “he was the fighter who never gave up.” However, on this particular morning, he felt like abandoning whatever distant ideals he once spouted and lived. 

For a split second, he recalled, standing there with a loaded toothbrush and the sound of running water, the days that he thought he experienced total clarity about his life and his place in the world. It seemed like eternity ago, especially now with such a strange and even bizarre turn of events with COVID-19 and its subsequent divisive havoc upon the country and especially on his own circle of family and friends. He had not fully realized how disheartening things had spiraled out of control.

He wanted to start off the new year with just the right amounts of optimism laced carefully with a warm, not cold or stark, realistic approach to life so as to avoid any crushing embarrassment or feelings of abandonment or even worse, rejection. Unfortunately, the phrase he remembered from a poem he had read years earlier prevailed over his most sincere efforts which went something like, “the best made plans of mice and men often go awry.” And they most certainly did not even one week into 2021.

It started with family. Of course, he understood the cautionary approach to gatherings and how important it was to keep distance as a priority but still maintain closeness. But what he did not understand was how some members of his family still gathered and he was not included in their plans. Still, he remained positive. Then there was his old college roommate with whom he shared great times and memories who kept putting off their yearly visits with phrases like, “I’m just not ready,” and “things are simply not safe.” All the while, even amid these pronouncements, which seemed rational on the surface, there were still dinners, and parties, and other memories made even with some who had already contacted the virus and were still susceptible to it. Again, there were no harsh words spoken or blame games to be played. He just accepted how things were to be. For how long, was anyone’s guess.

The Ancient Romans had a theory of the events happening in threes. They called it “Omne trium perfectum.” (Three makes perfect.) This has interestingly trickled down to what some call “The Rule of Three” which is a principle in writing and literature that suggests that a trio of events or characters is more humorous, satisfying, or effective than other numbers. As a life principle, no doubt debatable but not without merit, came to life for him right on the first day of January when he had hoped to begin things with a sincere and noble start. His best friend, who had an equally tumultuous 2020 with very little going according to plan, had suggested they have a “kick-off” to new beginnings with a long and meaningful lunch at one of their favorite haunts. Everything seemed posed to have that great start and they agreed on the time and place late in the afternoon of New Year’s Eve. He had arrived a little early to order a scrumptious appetizer and his own favorite pre-meal beverage of toasting the hopes and desires of the new year with his normal optimistic disposition and genuine expectation of the fruits of friendship. And he waited. And waited. And then some more. His darling waitress, probably a struggling college student herself, could not hold back the sympathetic glances and occasionally phrases of support. His friend never arrived and while the second drink had already been served, he decided to order, scarf down his lunch, and then return to the bold and promising hours of the new year, such as they were. So there it was: his family, his old college friend, and now this. Three for three.

He came to the obvious conclusion that it is probably and most likely easier to accept something like this happening to you when it is done by an unfriendly source or by even an enemy, but when a friend stands you up or just casually forgets you, it is so much harder. That was exactly what happened. “I simply forgot,” and with that explanation arrived a myriad of reasons, explanations, and begging for forgiveness, which, of course, as usual, was immediately delivered without any fanfare and with the promise that the incident would never be resurrected again, especially in the venturesome months ahead. However, it did still keep returning to his consciousness and back thoughts with numbing regularity. “How does anyone forget their friends, their family, and what they mean to them?” he would ponder with the same empty results each time. “And why is it always YOU who have to be understanding, forgiving, and patient?” This mantra had also produced the same vacuous response.

“Well, that was enough self-pity for the morning,” he thought, and with that, he finished his bathroom routine and made his way to the kitchen to collect a few things before rushing off to work, including lunch. It was at that moment that he clumsily spilled a basket of apples from the kitchen counter onto the floor. For a moment, time stood still as he was transported back about twenty years earlier while at his first job in Chicago. He was living in nearby Gary, Indiana, and would drive to the local carpool area to catch the Metro into the “Windy City” for work. This one particular morning of repressed and dislodged memory, his wife drove him there planning to return later that night after the arrival of the last train to pick him up and bring him back home for dinner. His entire day was full of successful sales and hard-pressing meetings, and he found himself running late to make the last train back home. He sped on foot as fast as possible and when he got down to the tracks of the station, his wildly swinging briefcase knocked over a strangely-positioned crate of apples which sent them flying in every direction. Even though he made it inside one of the cars, his conscience got the best of him and he decide to get off and help pick up the apples which were apparently being sold by a young boy by the tracks. He was glad he did. The boy was blind.

He slowly gathered the apples that he sent spinning all over the station, one by one, until he figured that he retrieved all of them. He slowly made his way to the young boy and reaching for his wallet, he pulled out three twenty-dollar bills and carefully made his way to the blind apple seller. A few tears welled up on his face as he softly placed the bills in the boy’s small hands and calmly said the following: “I am the one who knocked over your apples and I am very sorry. Here, I am placing sixty dollars in your hands. These are twenty-dollar bills, sixty dollars, so don’t let anyone take them from you or tell you otherwise. I hope I haven’t ruined your day.” And with that, he began to walk away, and he may have forever left that blind boy’s life except for the fact that the young man wistfully called out: ”Sir?! Sir?! Are you Jesus?” This simple question froze him in his tracks, and he was never the same again.

Perhaps the moment had become buried deep down in his soul after twenty years of ups and downs, disappointments and other life moments that may or may not have taken the joy and reason out of his life. However, this morning, it came back with just an innocent kitchen accident that sent apples rolling and his memory engaged. It was precisely at this profound moment that he renewed his desire to be the man he believed God had created him to be, a man who reflects Jesus His Son in every opportunity possible. He wondered where that blind boy was right now, a man of about thirty or so. However, it did not matter. Today, he would approach his family, his friends, and all the people God had placed in his life with the same tireless, noble effort.

And wiping a few tears that had formed, he turned and began his day and the rest of his life, again.

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered; Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; Be kind anyway. If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies; Succeed anyway. If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you; Be honest and frank anyway. What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; Build anyway. If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous; Be happy anyway. The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow; Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough; Give the world the best you’ve got anyway. You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God; It was never between you and them anyway.  St. Teresa of Calcutta

Share your thoughts (20 thoughts)

20 thoughts on “You Sound Familiar”

  • Deborah says:

    What a beautiful story!! This story brought tears to my eyes.The story reminds me that we need to be kind to others and forgive any one who has hurt us. May god continue to bless you and give you the wisdom to continue to write these inspirational stories. Thanks for sharing them.

    • Caro says:

      Thank you so very much, Deborah! May the Lord Jesus hear our prayers for these and all your intentions. Thank you for commenting.

  • Tony Montez says:

    Every now and again I’ll read or hear a statement that resonates as truth. For example, in a movie high school sweethearts were reunited in middle age and the women told the man,” I think we have two lives. The one we learn with and the one we live with afterwards.” People really do cross our paths and we don’t realize in the moment how deeply joyful our time was in those days. Our spirit was more vibrant. We recognized in each other the reality of being created in God’s image. We’re happy because we’re aware to love others as ourselves. We cannot be a loving human being without other human beings to love and to share the elegance.

    • Caro says:

      Thank you, Tony, for your thoughts today! I found myself giving your comments a markedly increased length of time for reflection. That is definitely a good thing! We all have two lives. The one we are given and the one we create. (Mary Chapin Carpenter)

  • Denise Guerra says:

    Another excellent story. God places people and situations in our lives everyday. How we act and react to everything is up to us. I know we don’t always think before we speak or react and pride or feelings usually end up getting hurt. If we start thinking, or maybe praying for guidance, before reacting God will step in and take over where we need him to be. He is always by our side and with Him there, how can any day be bad?

    • Caro says:

      Thank you so much, Denise, for your comments today. Your aspect of the need to prepare spiritually for all of life’s “arrows of outrageous fortune” is definitely spot on and worthy of much more attention. Sometimes we may not have the luxury of time before the onset of something disappointing occurs but that is precisely why beginning our day with a morning resolve filled with optimistic resolve is always advisable. Your words remind me of the Scripture: If God is for us, who could be against us? Have a great week ahead and let us all be spiritually ready for the great Season of Lent.

  • Ron says:

    In these trying times it’s difficult to remember our calling to be Christ-like to others and strive to see Christ in others as well. So often we rush to be first in line, to make sure our needs are met before others, or judge others based on innuendos or gossip. Forgiveness and mercy takes less effort than holding a grudge or inflicting pain yet we, as Christians, still find it difficult to do what Christ demands of us. The only things we control is our attitude and our effort so why not take the attitude that I will decide to love and offer forgiveness, freeing my soul to accept Jesus in my life. The world may never change but I can and, who knows, maybe it’ll be contagious.

    • Caro says:

      Thank you, Ron, and welcome back to these pages! You are so right in pointing out that the psychic and emotional levels of maintaining hatred and retaliation are through the roof when it comes to the wisdom from Christ to forgive and show mercy, just as it is daily and overwhelmingly shown to us. Sometimes we either want to or need to, change ourselves in some way. It can be because we’ve entered another season of life, or maybe change is being thrust upon us. Most likely, we know that in order to achieve a different outcome, we need to make a personal change. Either way, it can be like swimming upstream; strenuous, uncomfortable, and awkward. Oh, but think of the amazing things to come! Have a great week and month ahead, Ron. God bless you always! “Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” George Bernard Shaw

  • Margo Vice says:

    So many times, we are often disappointed and let down. It’s difficult to have an optimistic look on life and people. But just as the little boy asked after a generous gesture, “Are you Jesus?”, just says how much a simple act of of kindness affects ones life. This world definitely needs more act of kindness, peace and unity. I know I, just as EVERYONE has gone through tumultuous times in life, but this reminds me that it doesn’t matter. We HAVE to keep doing the best we can for others despite the possibility of disappointment. It’s tough but it’s definitely a reminder to try every day!!! Thank you for this story!!

    • Caro says:

      It is so true, Margo, how much a little act of kindness impacts a person’s life, especially if they are struggling–but on second thought, especially when we are struggling. So many times, the only way to find peace amid the maddening and selfish crowds is to reach out and help another struggling soul. “The difference between school and life? In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson.”
      ― Tom Bodett

  • Julie Trevino says:

    Thank you for another inspirational story!
    Covid 19 has certainly changed the way we live our lives. I must say, our lives certainly need to change. This world has been so boggled with cell phones, computers, facebook, television, movies…so much noise that we can’t hear Jesus talking to us. We’re just not listening to Him anymore! Jesus doesn’t want us to live in fear but in faith and love!! Trust in Jesus!!!! Once we look at ourselves, repent and forgive; oh how life will look so different to us! We will be able to see Jesus in everything and in everyone! What a beautiful world God has given us. We just need to wash our eyes and see the beauty. We need to help our family members and friends and pray for our enemies who don’t see it. If everyone would put God and prayer back in their lives, we’d have a whole new world. The way God intended it to be. God bless everyone.

    • Caro says:

      Welcome back to our pages, Julie, and thank you once again for your kind response and insightful words of reflection. You remind us that although it has been said over and over again, that actions speak louder than words, it is most likely more true (if that could be said appropriately) that words are just noise and actions are the ONLY things that speak. I hope we can all accept the challenge of your words: Once we look at ourselves, repent and forgive; oh how life will look so different to us! We will be able to see Jesus in everything and in everyone!

  • Veronica Altamirano says:

    I was not brought up in the best situations and the things I saw growing up and had to endure, I wish no one has to ever see or have to go through. So as I started learning about my faith and truly “change” to the ways of what our God teaches us, it was hard, but so worth it. I learned then, why so many people do not follow a faith and their teachings because in order for you to truly follow God, it requires you to let go of old ways and change to new norms and ways of thinking and doing. At times, you feel like the only person “doing what God teaches us to do” and it becomes lonely sometimes, but I could not thank my Lay Formation Coordinator enough. They started a journey that I continue today. God bless him!
    As a single parent, I have to constantly remind my children to be the better person and to always do the right thing, even when it is hard, even when all you want to do is treat them the same exact way they treat you. At family gatherings on both sides of their family I have to remind my children that they will get questioned for their ways, they will be asked to do things they normally would not be asked, and be surrounded with a lot of negativity. I tell them to see past that and to enjoy their time, even if we defer in our outlook of life and what we should be doing here on this Earth.
    I sometimes, because I am human, ask myself the same question he asked himself, “why is it always me that has to be the understanding, forgiving, and patient one” and I quickly remember it is judgement day that I am preparing for, this is between me and God. So may I, we, always remember that “it was never between you and them, anyway”.

    • Caro says:

      Thank you very much, Veronica, for your visit to our pages today. Your comments remind us all of the remarkable levels of shallowness in our world. You challenge us to seek to understand the current trends of outrageous selfishness and begin to believe that there isn’t much we do to fix it. Perhaps you also nudge us, as many have suggested, the holes in our life are permanent. We have to grow around them, like tree roots around concrete and mold ourselves through the gaps.

  • Sylvia Garcia says:

    Loved this article. While I can not go back and correct the times I rushed through life ignoring “fallen” apples, I will now look at my daily apple and reflect on my actions of the day and remind myself to look for the opportunities to be Jesus to all I encounter tomorrow. In these times of COVID and division, what would happen if we all tried to be Jesus to one another?
    Thank you again for this food for thought.

    • Caro says:

      Having fed on these spiritual foods for thought and reflection, Sylvia, the best time for action is definitely the present moment. Thank you for our response and for the reminder of the beautiful challenge to be Jesus to one another.

  • Mary Ann Ramos says:

    Today was a strange and difficult Sunday. I am so thankful for this article. It surely turned things around for me! It has always been between me and my God! If I am pleasing Him, then today is a good day! Thank you!

    • Caro says:

      Happy February, Mary Ann and welcome to the growing community of believers that are holding on to the Lord with all we’ve got! You said it perfectly: If I am pleasing Him, then today is a good day! May your days ahead be very blessed.

  • Annelise says:

    What a beautiful story! Thank you! It serves as a timely reminder not to take my friends and family for granted. While we must be cautious in light of the virus, we must not allow it to rob us of opportunities to be present and the face of Christ to all we meet. Tomorrow isn’t promised.

    • Caro says:

      Welcome back to these pages, Annelise. It is so good to hear from you again. It warms our hearts to know that such stories can motivate all of us to take another good look at the world around us and make substantial differences to help each other. Nothing hurts more than to feel taken for granted and/or unappreciated. Showing Christ to each other is the only true path to lasting happiness. God bless you always!

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