One of my most significant spiritual experiences occurred when I was about thirteen. It was as if this moment would be a decisive one for the rest of my life, full of symbolic meaning and importance.
At the time, my mother and I were living in a very small town in country Queensland, Australia. We lived on the outskirts of town, surrounded by bush. I would ride my bike to school and back on school days, the ride would take around half an hour each way. On this particular morning I was about five minutes into my ride, and my beloved little collection of key rings hanging off my schoolbag fell onto the road. As these key rings were fashionable amongst us thirteen year olds, I immediately stopped on the side of the road intending to pick them up. I checked the usually empty road, and as luck would have it a large semi-trailer crested the hill and hurtled towards the key rings that were lying in the middle of the road!
I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty, and they would likely not survive eighteen wheels passing over. I waited for the truck to pass, closely watching the key rings, and to my dismay I watched them being crushed unceremoniously. Once the road was clear I walked to the centre of the road and picked up the remains, probably simultaneously swearing and wanting to cry.
As I straightened I saw a wallet on the other side of the road, lying in the dirt. I couldn’t really believe it was there because the road was in the middle of the bush with only a handful of houses sparsely scattered towards town. It was such an unlikely place to find a wallet, and I realised then that if my key rings hadn’t fallen to the ground the wallet may have never been found. No driver would see it as it was perfectly camouflaged, and as people hardly ever walked or cycled the road – the chances of it being found were very low. It’s highly likely I had already passed it many times on my way home from school.
Once I had picked it up and moved to the other side of the road again I inspected the contents, and not surprisingly I was hoping for a wad of cash. I found around $100 in it, and paid little attention to the other contents. There was no identifier of the owner with my quick search. I carefully tucked the wallet into my bag and solemnly recommenced my journey towards school. I knew that I could keep the wallet without anyone ever finding out. We were quite poor at the time, and $100 was an extraordinary amount of cash to me, the possibilities were endless. At the same time my conscience was telling me this wallet belonged to someone, and they were most likely upset to have lost it. Maybe they needed the money for rent.
For the next 15 mins of the ride my mind played a rollercoaster – up and down, right and left, weighing up my choices and the possible consequences. The road ended in a fork, and it fully summed up my options. The police station was located to the left, my school to the right. It was clear as day that I had to make this decision alone, and it was a very simple choice. Do the right thing and hand the wallet over to the police, or secretly keep it and go to school as usual – no-one would ever know.
I finally came to the fork and turned left towards the police station. My decision had been made, and even though I was slightly grumpy about my conscience winning this challenge I knew it was the right thing for me to do.
The policeman was pleased with my find and thanked me for handing it in. Without an identifier in the wallet he didn’t know whether the owner would be found, in which case I would receive the wallet back after a little while. My eyes lit up at the possibility. I went to school and forgot about the wallet.
A few weeks later my mum told me a man had stopped by her work, and as he was the grateful owner of the returned wallet he left me a card with $10 in it and a poster of the ‘Footprints’ poem. I dismissed the poster, briefly acknowledged the card and looked forward to spending my $10.
I was in my early twenties before I fully recognised the significance of what had happened, and how my choice had shaped the coming years. It was also the time I fully recognised the Footprints poem as a message from Spirit that I was loved and taken care of.
I don’t believe I have always made the right choices in life, and I think we all have to negotiate our conscience on a regular basis – sometimes we do well and sometimes not so much, and we learn. But maybe we also get signs from Spirit when we are on the right track and we are rewarded in subtle but meaningful ways when we pay attention. In my case it was a benevolent and grateful elderly man who may have sent some positive thoughts my way, and who certainly showed me thanks by sending a card, a beautiful poster and some money.
On this particular morning I feel like this incidence was a major spirit-life event for me, one that has enabled me to follow a spiritual path sooner than if I had chosen differently. And for that I am grateful!
Footprints in the sand
One night I dreamed a dream.
As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
One belonging to me and one to my Lord.
After the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,
especially at the very lowest and saddest times,
there was only one set of footprints.
This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,
You’d walk with me all the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”
He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you.”
– by Mary Stevenson
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