Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A REAL Miracle I Witnessed In 1972

Signs are everywhere if you just pay attention, but it is rare that a REAL miracle occurs. I must clarify the difference between a sign and a miracle. A sign is a pointer. It expects you to look outside yourself for something. It could be letting you know that a friend you haven't heard from in 20 years is coming or where to find a piece of your crazy aunt's wedding china. You might not know what the sign means exactly, but you are being given some reference point to consider. Figuring out what the sign means is a subjective process.

A miracle on the other hand happens right in from of you, and there is no doubt of its existence. Now of course miracles have been watered down to Mary appearing on potato chips or Jesus burnt into toast. When I say miracle, I mean somebody laying on hands and making someone walk, or frogs falling from the sky, or a person rising from the dead. I witnessed such a miracle at the corner of Old Stage Road and Walton Avenue in 1972.

When we were a kids, we loved hard rain. Hard rain meant that the ditch in front of my house turned into a river which could be used in all kinds of adventures. Ironically, one of our favorite games was building damns to try and stop the water. In the spring of 1972, we were playing in front of my grandparents' house at the corner of Old Stage Road and Walton Avenue, Chilhowie Virginia. The cast of children has faded, but I believe John Dutton, Ginger Dutton, and one other kid was there. I could have the players wrong. The rain was so hard it hurt my skin. We were all soaked to the bone but having an amazing time. It was a Sunday.

 A van screamed down Old Stage Road and screeched to a halt right in front of us. It was the van you saw in your nightmares as a kid: dark blue with paint chipping off and a scary bearded guy driving. The rain pounded us so hard, it hurt my eyes to actually look up enough to see the windows. A smiling woman with long, straight black hair, wearing a red bandanna, threw three large plastic bags out the window. Each was about the size of a computer screen. We heard giggling inside the van, and then it sped away. Still frightened, we were afraid to approach the bags. We poked them with sticks at first. When we finally got up the courage, we discovered the three bags were filled with little toys, the kind of toys you would get out of red gumball machines. There were little toy trucks, cars, brackets, beads, horses; everything that our group really liked. After looking it over, we split up the booty very fairly. We all got the toys we were most interested in and there were no squabbles. I seem to remember that even in our excitement we decided to take our toys home and not flash them around. None of us understood what happened, and we didn't want to have the toys taken away on some technicality that we as children "wouldn't understand."

I suppose the logical explanation was that the people in the van had broken open a bunch of gumball machines and taken the money and toys. They threw the toys at us either because they didn't want to get caught with them, or they wanted to do a nice thing, and in their euphoria of having gotten away with their heist, they wanted to share the loot somehow. We were the recipients of that kindness. That to me is a miracle: on an already spectacular flood day, we were literally showered with toys from strangers.

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