Living in the Puget Sound area means water rules your life. This is especially true if you live on an island or a peninsula, as we do. If you want to go anywere, you have to navigate around or on a body of water with bridges and ferries doing most of the work shuttling cars and their occupants to where they want to go. Larry and I ride ferries and cross bridges constantly as do most of the residents in this area.
Many of these connecting bridges are draw bridges because of all the boat traffic coming and going through these waters. The opening of a draw bridge can stop traffic for twenty minutes or longer. If you’re really unlucky, the bridge will get stuck in the open position. This doesn’t happen as often as it used to, but it can happen. Before smart phones and apps, this could mean a complete change of plans.
For the most part Washingtonians take these situations in stride. We recognize it as a unique aspect of living here. Most of us are drawn to this part of the country because of the water, so we accept these inconveiences as just part of life. But cutting in line, whether the ferry line or while waiting at a draw bridge, is one thing that will make any Washingtonian seethe. It doesn’t happen very often. We all know the rules and most of us play by them. Cutting to the front of the line is considered low. Larry and I agree. We hate line cutting. We’ve both been known to give a dirty look to an offender without really caring about their story or their reason for cutting in line.
Many years ago, Larry and I were sitting in our car on an open draw bridge that had managed to get stuck in the open position when a small, older model blue Honda buzzed past us to the front of the line. Larry and I spent the next several minutes complaining to one another about line cutting. We wondered aloud if the folks at the front of the line would let them in.
After we wore out that topic, both of us continued to seethe just a little, until an ambulance buzzed by us to the front of the line. Suddenly the actions that appeared arrogant and presumptuous by the occupants of that little blue Honda were now tinged with need and urgency. I can only imagine those desperate moments for the occupants of that small car as they tried to hurry to the hospital only to come across the waiting line. Once they made their way to the front of the line, they found the bridge stuck in its open position. More urgency. More desperation.
A few minutes later the ambulance buzzed past us again, this time they were heading away from the open draw bridge and toward a smaller but more available hospital. The blue Honda followed with one less occupant.
I don’t know what happened to those poor folks on what must’ve been a terrible day. But I can tell you what happened to me. I still don’t like line cutting, and I still seethe. But I try to remember a tiny blue Honda driving behind a big red ambulance.
The summer before I began school at University of Washington Tacoma, Larry and I took an unexpected financial hit. We were in the rental business, mostly by accident, and one rental started having problems in April, 2013. Our tenants, (a woman and her teenage son, whom we loved) were being harassed by the downstairs neighbor. The banging on my tenant’s floor began the minute she got home. It continued as she tried to study (she was working on her Ph.D.) and throughout the evening as her son did his homework.
I did everything right to resolve this issue. I worked with the management company, who encouraged me not to contact the downstairs tenant. I tried on numerous occasions to get in touch with the landlord of that particular unit, but he would never respond, and I worked tirelessly with my own tenant to try to resolve the situation through legal means. Nothing worked. Finally, in sheer frustration, in June of that year(three months before I was supposed to start school), our tenant gave her notice. She was concerned for her teenage son because the harassment had turned into verbal accusations and increasingly included him. She was moving out. Gosh, I was frustrated! Why was it that in the midst of trying to do everything right and play by all the rules, my tenant and I were being punished?
For months, Larry and I tried to rent our unit, but the rental market was soft, and we didn’t have any luck. We finally hired a management company, and still, the unit stood empty. Larry and I talked about postponing my schooling. I considered going to work, instead. I cried. Larry felt bad. Our dream was slipping fast.
We continued to work over the numbers. Larry took on extra hours. We received a check in the mail in the form of a 20% scholarship from the university. It wasn’t a lot, but it would ease the financial burden just enough to allow me to start school. I was so grateful for that reprieve, I cried some more. Only this time, my tears were filled with gratitude to my Heavenly Father. Six months later, the unit was rented. Two small mercies that made all the difference.
One year later, I heard from my previous tenant. She was emailing me for a recommendation. She had taken a year off from school and was now living in Washington DC. Would I be willing to offer her a letter of recommendation to a new landlord? Happily, I agreed. It was in that moment I stepped back and began to see another small mercy. This one wasn’t so obvious and only revealed itself much later and with some reflection.
My previous tenant would’ve moved anyway. But instead of moving in the summer of 2013 when she was experiencing all the harassment, she would’ve moved in the summer of 2014 to go to Washington DC. This would’ve most certainly meant the end of my schooling for a season, because there is no check in the mail this year, and we lost another tenant this summer who left us with a house in shambles and a great deal of debt. I shudder to think of what would’ve happened if both tenants would’ve left at the same time. What I had first considered a disaster turned out to be my saving grace.
With this story fresh in my mind, I’ve been reminded that I don’t believe in coincidences. So, I’ve decided to spend 2015 looking for the small mercies. I’ll keep a journal of these precious gifts from the Lord. I’m going to be sharing some of these experiences here on the blog and also on my Waters of Peace Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Waters-of-Peace/334786213304207. I would love it if you’d be willing to share some of your small mercies, too. So, please, consider these lovely but often unseen wonders of your life and share them with us, so our lives can be broadened by what we’re offered. Because, I’m beginning to believe a good life is made of small mercies.