By Celia Coates
I’ve written before about “just the right wrong thing” – about times when something difficult or painful becomes a gift. Here’s another story about an event like that.
A year or so ago a very dear friend told me about what had happened that day at work. She runs a program for teenage boys who are learning about growing market crops like tomatoes, peppers, and green beans. She’d been out weeding in one of the fields with Michael, her new assistant in the program, and a teenager, Andy.
Andy had saved hard-earned money for months and bought himself a deluxe digital watch that he showed my friend as they went out to the field. After a couple of hours of weeding the three returned to the golf cart they used to get back and forth from the main building and Andy said, “I’ve lost my watch out there.” He’d just realized that it was missing.
The three of them went back out to the field to see if they could find it, and after a fruitless search returned to the golf cart downhearted. Andy wasn’t complaining, but it’s easy to share the pain of someone who has lost something precious. My friend was driving slowly and all three were silent as they went back down the dirt track when Michael suddenly said, “Stop the cart!” He got out and walked back a row or two in the field, bent down, picked something up, and when he got back to the other two, he handed Andy the watch.
Stunned. My friend and Andy were stunned, and happy. She asked Michael how on earth he had ever seen that small watch in the large field. Michael answered, “I was trained as a sniper and did a couple of tours in Afghanistan. I saw something shine in the field.”
That day Michael’s extraordinary ability to see tiny details quickly was just the right wrong thing. He’d been able to turn his training to hit human targets in war into a way of helping another person. For Andy, the experience of losing and then finding was a gift of great good fortune. A moment of extraordinary luck can teach us to leave room in our lives for blessings – it’s wise not to steadily assume that things go wrong and stay wrong. My friend saw this as a “swords into ploughshares” moment, a time when the tools of war became a peaceful gift that can add to life instead of destroying it.