When God throws you a life jacket.

I got a job at Seaworld as a water skier when I was 18 years old. I remember going to the movie theater and watching Pretty Woman right before I left for that job. I wanted to be saved like Julia Roberts was in that movie. I got it in my head that I WOULD be saved like her. 

I started the job and slept on a boat driver’s couch some nights.Some nights I slept in my car. A few nights I drove two hours home to sleep in my old bed. I’d get home after dark and leave before light. One night I was too tired to drive home, too hot to sleep in my car, and too embarrassed to ask the boat driver to sleep on his couch, so I drove to this fancy hotel. I sat on a fancy couch. I sat there for hours. I went into the bar. I sat down at the piano and pretended that a handsome man would be there, Richard Gere. But as I tapped on the keys for another hour, no one came. So I went back and sat on the couch. Around midnight the manger of the hotel came to speak to me. He asked if I wanted a room.I told him I couldn’t afford it. He offered me the key to his house and said I could stay as long as I wanted. I thought, ” This is it, I am going to be swept away by this handsome manager!” He drove me to his house, made a bed for me on the couch, and went to his room and went to sleep. I was dumbfounded. I wasn’t getting swept away like the movie. I wasn’t getting saved. But I wasn’t getting raped and I wasn’t being hurt. I was treated with kindness by a stranger! I don’t even remember his name. He had an 18 year old girl on  his couch and never said an inappropriate word or did an inappropriate gesture. For all that I have written about in my life story of men who have hurt me, my story would not be complete with out the few that did not. Because those few were a lifeline to a reality that I had never known. I would be drowning and then one would pop up out of nowhere and save me. I have no idea what this man’s name was. But he was a rare gem in a world full of jagged and sharp edges. The boat driver who let me sleep on his couch was the same. They didn’t judge me, they didn’t hurt me, they were just there when I had no where left to go. I feel like God sprinkled those men in at just the right times when I was just about to slip underwater. He threw me a life jacket. 

Life is not a movie. Those police shows aren’t real. The hospital shows and lawyer shows aren’t real. The reality is Richard Gere won’t be saving me from prostitution and whisking me off to a life of luxury and lavishness. Real life doesn’t always have a perfect ending. But as long as I get some life jackets tossed to me along the way, and random acts of kindness are graciously bestowed upon me, then I will be just fine. 

An electric company lineman, an artist, a drug addict teenager, a hotel manager, a boat driver, a police officer, a mental hospital patient(who I fell in love with), a hippie(he called himself that),  and an engineer, all gave me kindness when I thought there was none left in the world. And those were just the men! Because of their kindness I was able to recognize the kindness that my husband gave me long before he was my husband. I like to think of meeting my husband as my happy beginning, not the happy ending. Because I feel that life really started when I met him. But I am thankful, and cherish the other life lines along the way. Had it not been for them, I never would have had my new start with my happy beginning. I have had many struggles. I still have many struggles. But we all do. Recognizing the good parts helps the struggles not feel so lonely. Knowing a life jacket may be coming again at any moment is reason to keep treading water. The good will come. It may not be kindness from someone, it may be a birds song, or a beautiful flower, or the sound of a baby laugh, but if you look hard enough, there will be good. Take a moment. Breathe. Breathe deeply. And try to hold on to that one moment where you felt some good. For me, tonight, I’m going 25 years back, and feeling a moment of kindness a hotel manger gave me at a time when I was surrounded by chaos. I’m thinking of that person and feeling grateful.

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