My eyes are still closed from the night before, and the early morning light seeps through the lids of my eyes just as I’m about to open them – convincing me: Yes! God has given me a new day…again.
Canadian geese are early risers too. I hear their squawks and splashes and the fluttering of their giant feathered wings as they go from swimming to flying to waddling in my driveway on their way to get breakfast, pecking on my lawn. Two by two. Always two by two.
I marvel at that. I heard geese mate for life, and rarely does the male leave the female except to hunt or provide for her.
I’ve been married and divorced. Prove positive that we humans are a different breed. Not as loyal, not quite so content, not so easily satisfied.
Yet, despite my marital history, I am content and satisfied. But how I got there is another story.
It was an unseasonably cold day, even by Chicago standards. April 28, it was snowing, then freezing rain, then snowing again. I was making my way back from the Cook County courthouse with a Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage tucked in my handbag. Steven and I were finally divorced, and I felt no relief from the heaviness I had been carrying for nearly sixteen long years.
Living with and loving an alcoholic stretched my goodness to the point where I was no longer who God intended me to be.
On that fateful Thursday morning in April, I was simply existing. I couldn’t even feel the tiniest spark of hope. As Steven and I stood in front of the judge, his parting words were kind, “I hope you both find happiness and harmony in the days and months ahead. Good luck to you.”
Happiness and harmony? I couldn’t imagine it.
I was heading for the trains. It’s typically a fifteen-minute walk to the Metra station from Daley Plaza. It was 10:34. I know because I checked my phone before I left the lobby. My train departed at 11:15. I had plenty of time, but I didn’t dawdle, it was cold and wet. I was anxious to get away from the courthouse, longing to go home.
I walked south on Clark past Washington to Madison. Mid-morning in Chicago’s loop always feels just a little bit eerie to me. All the action is taking place inside at this hour. The people who work in the office buildings are at their desks, the shopkeepers are tidying their stores, and the restaurant workers are getting ready for the noontime rush.
It seemed like it was me alone walking down the sidewalk I shared with the shivering homeless, patiently waiting for noon when their customers would return.
A FedEx truck blocked my view as I waited to cross the street. I remember staring at the purple and orange block letters when it happened.
On the northeast corner of Madison and Clark, I was whacked across my lower back with something hard and heavy. I fell to my knees. It was a split second, and my handbag was gone.
The funny thing is, I didn’t feel the pain in my back right away. I felt it in my belly where my soul is used to holding the emotional pain of difficult marriages and a broken spirit.
I sat on the sidewalk for just a few minutes. No one came to my aid. There was no one around on that stretch of sidewalk at that exact time in the icy drizzle of a cold Chicago morning.
So, I stood up, shaky but determined to make my train. As I started walking, my brain told me, “check your right coat pocket” sure enough, there was my cell phone right where I put it after checking the time at 10:34. It was now 10:42.
The mugger missed it, and I found tremendous joy in knowing the ticket home was safe in my Metra App. I felt a rush of gratitude, unlike anything I felt before. I kept repeating, “ Thank God!”
At first, I was thanking God for sparing my cell phone. I began elaborating on the thank you, for wanting to know the time before I left the building, for putting my phone in my pocket instead of back in my purse, for the mugger not grabbing my coat or checking my pockets, for my phone not falling out when I fell, for remembering my phone was in my pocket, and on and on about the lucky break during a very unlucky incident.
And then, when I was safely in my seat on the homebound Metra, I began thanking God differently. With my heart, not my head.
Thank You, God, for though I lost my purse, I didn’t lose my life. Thank You, God, for though I was attacked and robbed, it wasn’t me who attacked and robbed another. Thank You, God, for though I was depressed, I was not desperate.
By the time the train reached the station, I was positively giddy with joy. I walked off the train with a zest for life and eager to start anew.
And so I did.
From that fateful day until now and onto forever, I live with gratitude. The civil judge hoped for it in his courtroom the day of my divorce, and the Holy Judge decreed it. I am happy and harmonious. Praise God!