Did you ever think that maybe the Universe is talking to you all the time?
There used to be a show on TV called “Joan of Arcadia.” Joan Girardi was a typical high school kid – except that God was always showing up as random people in her life. These people (who were really God in disguise) would challenge her to do things she probably would not otherwise do. Sometimes God was the cafeteria lady, sometimes a little girl, sometimes a goth kid at school. The theme song was Joan Osborne’s “One of Us” (What if God was one of us? / Just a slob like one of us / Just a stranger on the bus / Trying to make his way home).
I had a Joan of Arcadia experience this morning when the Universe (my preferred name for God) showed up in the form of a city utility worker. On the last leg of my morning walk, I rounded the corner from the busy main street into my peaceful neighborhood and saw that I would have to skirt around a huge fallen eucalyptus branch. A City of Mesa utility truck was parked next to the mess. I removed my iPod’s earbuds as I was greeted by a smiling man in a bright orange shirt who’d been scratching his head and looking over the debris and the ravaged remains of the tree.
“Good morning!” he said jovially with a twinkle in his eye (think Morgan Freeman in “Bruce Almighty” or “Evan Almighty”).
“Did that fall down in the night?” I asked, stupidly pointing out the obvious.
“These eucalyptus trees do this all the time,” he replied, with a kind of pleased enthusiasm that didn’t seem warranted given that he’d likely be the one to have to cut it up and haul it off.
It was certainly true, I reflected, remembering when our neighbor’s eucalyptus had come crashing through our fence a few years back. Not just a branch – the whole tree. And my own eucalyptus in the front yard split in two one day and had to be cut down. Eucs tend to suck up all the water they can, growing faster and heavier than their frames can manage. When there’s not much water to be had, their giant limbs grow brittle. They’ll weather all kinds of wind and heat and then one day, when not a breeze is stirring, a humongous branch will come crashing down with no warning.
“Heat’s coming on us today,” he observed, not ruefully but with the attitude of a man about to do battle and relishing the thought.
“Yep. Supposed to hit 100 today,” I said over my shoulder as I resumed my walk.
It was just a brief, random exchange. Except that as I’d rounded that corner, I’d been stewing over some financial challenges my family is facing right now. I’d been feeling like things might come crashing down at any moment. I’d been worrying whether we could stand the heat, or if we’d have to get out of the kitchen. Like the eucalyptus, our national economy had grown top-heavy and it seemed like a great big branch of it was about to fall right on us.
Then I ran into the Universe wearing an orange shirt and a big smile and pointing out to me that these things happen all the time. The Universe, standing ready to clean up the aftermath of anything that might come crashing down, heat be damned. Suddenly, I felt better. There might be some hard work ahead, but I’m willing to roll up my shirtsleeves and see it through. And I know the Universe has my back.
I quickened my pace just a bit and started singing out loud to the tune on my iPod: Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing.”