Sometime after 2:00 a.m. I was awakened into gratitude. I’d had a sweet, tender dream– extraordinarily so–and I sat up, drowsy drunk with thankfulness that it was still with me. But, ugh, I needed more sleep as I had to wake up soon to go to work. On my day off.
I had been “drafted”, along with another five or six carriers, and that meant that it would cost USPS a lot of overtime money, and they were desperate. I also knew I’d have to work hard to earn it. So, I finally drifted off, and at 5:20 I woke up again, really tired, but smiling with the dream.
Since it was my day off, my assignment was unknown. They had a plan, always do, but in a draft my orders could be almost anything–it’s all in our union contract. And the NALC, our union, is one of the best, and our contract is a fine one; I voted for it. But, in this case, it places me in an undesirable situation. In a known USPS world, I’d soon face the unknown, a world gone postal. So, I drank some water, ate a chunk of clean protein, and settled into my prayer chair with coffee. I prayed . . . first a prayer of thanksgiving. Then, my focused prayer became precisely this: “God, give me gratitude into the unknown.” This is a polyrhythmic, multi-faceted prayer for me, and I knew it might need some cleaning up on my way to work. I have a lot going on in my head and heart, and I do want it to be pure. So, I always ask for the wind of the spirit to blow away the chaff and river love to wash me.
Whenever my chair prayer needs to be refined in the morning, I later sit on the bench at the MAX stop, and ask for it. It happens, except when it doesn’t need to. When my chair prayer is fine just as it is, no bench prayer is needed. I have learned this over weeks and weeks, months, of the same routine. I pray in my chair, pray for focus from the bench, and then pray it all on MAX. All of it, whatever is left from the process.
But, there is this guy, the same guy each time, who smokes a cigarette and DOES NOT WANT TO TALK TO ME. He is sitting there sometimes. I have tried to talk to him, but he won’t. He is sitting on the bench, and each time he’s there, my prayer has stood as is. This guy keeps me from overthinking, and so I just keep my chair prayer, make it my bench prayer, and get on MAX with it. Today, I walked toward the bench and it was empty. OK, I thought, let’s work on some of the facets of this gratitude-into-the-unknown prayer. But just then the train arrived, early! and I had to get on. Oh, and this guy, when he is there–he always gets on with me, goes up one stop and gets off. Always. But, as I said, not this time. Time took away the guy and told me to get on with it. Get on the MAX and get on with your prayer. It is fine and re-fine.
Well, I am on MAX praying, “God, give me gratitude into the unknown”, all of the unknown, especially into what is wonderful and joyful and desired and so beautiful to me, with all its sides, all of its facets. And Lord, when I walk into work in 42 minutes, make me full of thanksgiving.
So, 42 minutes later I walk into work with a smile and go up to the desk to ask what my assignment is. “Oh, hi Timothy, just do your route.” But, it’s my day off, and I don’t have a route. “Oh, yeah.”
What will I be doing?
“I don’t know, let me check the schedule.”
I am not on it; I already checked.
“Hmmm you’re right. Well, I know I asked you to be here for a reason.”
Here it comes, Father. I know this well, by now. So, what do you want me to do?
“Unknown, but we will figure it out.”
I am laughing, because I know it has begun: this God, in his wild way, was at work before we were. When the doors were closed, and before the light was switched on. And at the post office, after the gates were locked from the night before, and the schedules were all set, and everything was clean and tidy, and this place was at rest, God was here working.
As the day developed, they had not a clue, really, why I was there. It was unknown to them, this reason why they had called me in. But I knew the reason. It is quite simple: God answers prayer. And there is always work to be done. I worked on six different routes today, two at the office because I knew them, and four on the street, actually delivering them. And, three of those, completely unknown to me. Once the plan was in place, they had the problem of a vehicle. Which one to use? Unknown. Oh, take the spare. Ok, which key? “I don’t know. ” So, I try all the keys on the rack.
There were many keys, but only one of them fit.
And the spare vehicle was the oldest at the station. I like the older trucks. They were designed by carriers 40 + years ago and each has a unique character from all those years, and stories which I can feel when I drive them. And they drive like army jeeps. Now I have never been in the army, of course, except I have sung, claiming to be in “the Lord’s army” and I answer every bell from the Salvation Army. But I don’t know what I think about the wars our country fights, or what I’d have done if I had been drafted that way. I do not think I could kill someone, but I do know I would die for someone. And every veteran whom I know, for each one I have nothing but high regard and respect. And maybe war is justified sometimes; I have no idea. Well, this truck is like that with its loosey-goosey steering and the feel of grit and determination. No one else likes them, but I do.
So, I got my piece-meal orders in little morsels as the day went on. And each time I did something different for someone, unknown to me but not to them, they said, “Thank you.” Oddly so. It almost seemed excessive to me. Gratitude kept coming my way, while I was trying to give it away, to give my gratitude in the unknown.
“Thank you for coming in.” You are welcome, but you asked me to, right? I have no idea what I am doing, but thank you, God. Back your way, my son.
And then, “Thank you, Timothy, for casing and sorting those other routes. Can you take some parcels out?” Sure. “Thank you.”
So, I did. I headed into the unknown and took a load of parcels to an international mailing facility, specializing in Eastern Europe and Asia. I got there, and it was unknown which door to enter, but I tried one and walked in. A woman was talking on the phone, very animated, speaking Russian to someone on the phone. It sounded gorgeous to me. Russian. Beautiful.
If you do not think Russian is beautiful, start with Tchaikovsky. Listen to anything, but make sure you include the Pathetique. Then, move on to Prokofiev. Any of his piano concertos, and maybe the Scythian Suite. Then, take a break. When you are ready, it is time for Stravinsky. Anything, but make sure you give attention to the glorious resurrection theme of The Firebird and the brutality of The Rite of Spring, new creation/life from death. Surely Russian is beautiful to you now. But if you are still wavering, you need Rachmaninoff. Everything. All of it. And, after Rachmaninoff, may you never doubt again . . .
I unloaded all of the parcels, and said thank you to the phone woman. She turned to me, and in perfect English said, “Thank you!”
After that, I went back to the station. “Here’s half of another route, Timothy.” A half, wholly unknown. The guy gave it to me and then he said thank you. Three hours of unknown, coming my way. Every name and place and pothole and locked box and curve and street, the flowers the trees the birds and the bees, unknown to me. I was so thankful. And I met some nice people in that unknown. And two of them said thank you for being earlier that usual. Funny. I had no idea when they usually get their mail and packages. It was all unknown, and thank you for that.
A little before twilight, I had to go help Will, my former buddy. And that route I know. It is my “prayer route”, so called because on this route is Ray’s Farm. And up the gravel road to his mailbox that is attached to an old tractor, half-way up that road, under the chestnut trees, growing in the wild grass, I always stop and pray. Always.
So, after helping Will, I was done with what they had given me, all nine hours of it, and I went to Ray’s Farm in the dark. There was something I wanted to do there, and I would also pray. Thank you God, for this day. It is finished, and all the way through all of the unknown, you gave me gratitude at every turn. And I have offered it up to you. And now I am here, in a place I know.
It’s a perfect ending.
And then my phone rang: a known number with an unknown message, “Can you go help Jimmy for an hour? He is struggling out there in the dark.” Sure, I said, it’s your money and will soon be mine, and there is always more work to do.
So I did a U-turn on Ray’s road, and I nearly got stuck there in the grass. I could have stayed there stuck in that perfect ending. But, when you’re stuck it is only temporary if you don’t spin your wheels. Just feel the wet grass beneath the tires, and give it just enough gas, and use reverse, and do whatever it takes. It is not difficult. Easily, I began moving, and went out once again. And I thought: this is God’s kind of perfect. Mine is under a tree, in the wild grass, with love, on a farm. But his is grander by far. Deeper still than I know. So I’ll keep moving. And that before-dawn dream, even now, is so real that I can live in it anywhere.
With gratitude into the unknown . . .