Monday, August 23, 2010

A Dead Transmission ~ A Day to Remember

Getting stranded in the middle of nowhere is not my idea of how to start a vacation, but that is precisely what happened a number of years ago. It was just me, a dead transmission, and a sour attitude. But, I'm happy to say, that's not how it ended.

Here's the rest of the story, as it appeared in last Sunday's Beaumont Enterprise. You can click (twice) on the image for quicker reading, perhaps, or it's all below, should you be interested. It remains one of my favorite stories.

On a sweltering afternoon, my car's transmission went out, leaving me stranded in a small town between Houston and Dallas.

Luckily, I had managed to sputter into the parking lot of a barbecue joint, where, after making a phone call and ordering a large lemonade, I clopped up a hill to a picnic table and sat down to sulk. I had at least two hours to kill before help arrived, and I could think of a hundred things I’d rather be doing than twiddling my thumbs in the middle of nowhere.

God, I said with a stirring sigh, why did this have to happen?

I was headed to my sister’s, where the two of us were driving to a lakeside cabin—the first time we’d taken a vacation without husbands and kids. This delay wouldn’t stop our plans, but it did nothing for my mood.

As I brooded, a white-haired couple strolled up the hill, hand-in-hand with a young fellow about three years old who was doing serious damage to an ice-cream cone. Just what I needed—a pesky kid to annoy me.

With a friendly nod, they settled in at the picnic table across the way.

"Look at that big ant, Grandpa," the youngster said, his voice full of wonder. He hunched over the table inspecting his latest find, while a trail of ice-cream trickled down his fingers, headed for his elbow.

"You’re about to lose it, boy," Grandpa said, reaching for his hand. But the lad was quicker to the draw. Making loud slurping noises, he attacked the cone then got back to business.

"Did you know ants have 15 legs, Grandpa?" he said authoritatively.

"Fifteen? You sure about that?" He winked at Grandma.

“If I could fly, I'd fly up to the top of that big, old tree." The boy was now pointing to the tip of the oak towering above my head.

Grandma glanced up. "And what on earth would you do in the top of that big old tree?" she asked, her eyes clearly adoring the boy.

He knew immediately. "Just sit," he said. "Or sing. Or—" he shrugged his shoulders, "—something else."

The trio fell silent as the sun dipped behind a band of pines. I stood up and stretched, studying everything in sight. The smear of red in the west. My weary car. The barbecue stand. The dirt beneath my feet. And especially at the boy with the ice-cream cone who, for unknown reasons, was now twirling around like a ballerina, while Grandpa two-stepped around him, guarding the endangered cone.

"Hey!" the youngster shouted, spinning furiously. "I'm dizzy!" Staggering to a stop, the lad pitched backward and landed hard on the ground, somehow managing to keep a grip on the cone.

“Oops,” he said, embarrassed. “I slipped.”

Rallying around him, Grandpa helped him to his feet, brushed off his backside. "Come on, hot rod," he said. "Let's go see if your mama’s arrived."

As they headed down the slope, I stretched out under the oak tree and thought about the boy who, if he could fly, would be perched at its peak—just sitting, or singing or something.

The youngster saw wonders and possibilities right here under an ordinary sky, in what appeared to be a most improbable place.

And I had sat just a few feet away, yet had seen only calamities.

He saw the world as an endless adventure, just waiting to be unfolded and consumed.

While I, at some point, had simply stopped looking.

A breeze ruffled the leaves of the oak. I could still see the boy spinning in circles, his grandfather dancing around him.

All of a sudden, I laughed. Right there on a picnic bench, I laughed out loud. The sound of it, pure and sweet, burst into the pink sky and settled around me like a summer rain. My car’s transmission had not revived, but a weight seemed to lift. I felt liberated from something I couldn’t even define.

I had asked God why I’d been stranded in the middle of nowhere. He answered by sending an exuberant lad my way, to talk of ants, to dream of flying, to dance in the dust with a melting ice-cream cone—to open my eyes to the splendid treasures of an ordinary day.

I could think of no better way to start a vacation.

By Dayle Allen Shockley, from The Beaumont Enterprise. All rights reserved.

Linking up with Gratituesday, a great place to hang out.



  1. Sometimes we just need a child to show us the way! Great story and we all need to feel that happiness and wonder at just 'being' in God's world.

  2. What a wonderful story. It is about perspective, isn't it?

  3. Dayle,
    I am in that kind of mood today, so thank you for posting this (just for me?) It wouldn't surprise me - God is so good!


  4. I read "While I, at some point, had simply stopped looking" and literally said, "Ouch" right out loud. This brought tears to my eyes! Simply beautiful! We do have so very much to learn from the complete lack of boundaries children have. It is truly amazing. Thank you for this today!

  5. Children have so much wisdom and we can learn from them. "From the mouths of babes.." Nice post, Dayle. Susan

  6. Having just spent several hours on the side of the road in the mountainous country of Colorado, I can appreciate your story and perspective on circumstances. I wanted to moan and wallow in self-pity, but couldn't. A nice old woman who could barely speak English came up to see if she could help. Then her son-in-law came up to see if he could help, and finally a friend (mechanic!) came by. The presence of genuinely caring people kept my perspective straight.

    Good story. I enjoyed the visit. And I'll be your books are great reads. wb

  7. "... for SUCH is the kingdom of Heaven."

    I LOVE this, Dayle. I kept getting interrupted every time I started to read this yesterday. I think God was saving it for my quiet morning time. It speaks to my heart.

    I love the part about flying to the top of the tree to sing... or something.

  8. We all need a lad with an ice cream cone in our lives!

  9. Sometimes we need to sit back and look at things through the eyes of a child.

    Wonderful story, Dayle.

  10. Oh, Dayle! What wonderful encouragement! I feel it - it's adjusting my "school-is-starting-overwhelmed" feeling. Maybe, we'll survive, after all! =]

    Thank you for your invitation to "Simple Pleasures". What a WONDERFUL idea for a blog party!!! Would you mind if I put my post on "Suzy's Dinner Party" in? Although some of the food was extraordinary, it was just a simple dinner and just simply an enjoyable time - truly!

    Love, Katy Noelle

  11. @ Katy Noelle, I was hoping that you would link up with that amazing dinner party. I agree. The food was not simple (it appeared to die for to me), but the idea of a garden party is a perfect simple pleasure. Please join us.

  12. Oh Dayle, what a SWEET and touching story with a GREAT message! THANK YOU!

  13. such a beautiful story. i could picture all of it perfectly.

    thanks for stopping by, and i'll try to link up tonight to your simple pleasures. always a pleasure to visit you, dayle!

  14. What a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing.


Dear Readers, I adore your company and your comments. If you ask questions here, I respond to them here, so please check back when you have a chance. Kind regards, Dayle