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Learning Now Means You May Not Need It Now, But You Will in the Future.

When my friend came back from lunch, I asked him, “What took you so long? Did you go to Florida”? He told me the car wouldn’t start because of the activated anti-theft device. Apparently, the car itself thought that Jerry was stealing the car. He then went into exact detail about how he got the car to start. I was more interested in my lunch, so I kept interrupting him throughout his story with questions such as, “Is this my sandwich”? “Jerry, did you get any chips with this”? “Do you have any packets of mayonnaise”?

Five or so months later, I was at a parish giving a talk at a parish on the North Shore. After I finished, I got into the car, and it would not start due to the defective anti-theft device. I tried to dig back into my memory of what Jerry had told me that day. He had said something about turning on the ignition, but not all the way. Then he had mentioned something about leaving the key in the ignition for ten minutes. I remember him telling me, specifically, “Not nine minutes and fifty- nine seconds—it had to be ten minutes.” So I waited for ten minutes. Sure enough, the theft light went out, and I was able to start the car. On the way home, I knew why Jerry wanted to tell me how to start the car. He knew that someday I would need that information. Sometimes, we are given information that may not be pertinent at the time, but we will need it in the future.

When I was seven years old, my father gave me a speech on the evils of smoking. He told me that the hardest thing he ever did in his life was to quit smoking, “I never want you to have to go through what I went through,” he warned. Then he said to me, “Peter, if you don’t start you will not have to quit.” I thought to myself, “Why is he telling me all this? I am only seven years old. I don’t even have an allowance.” Six years later, I hung around with some friends after school. Someone in the group took out a pack of cigarettes and passed it around. When it came to me, I reached back into my memory and remembered what my father had told me, and I thought, “If I do not start, I will not have to quit.” My friends thought that was cool. When I started to go home, I realized that my father knew that someday I would need such information and that I would need to have that line ready on my tongue to get me out of any peer pressure I would encounter. Sometimes, we are given information that we will need in the future.

It was snowing all weekend, so I was on foot to the hospital for a few calls. When I got to the driveway, I saw a homeless gentleman looking for cans in the recycling bin. I knew him. He was a regular. So I called out, “How’s it going?” He stood up straight and took two steps toward me.  As he walked toward me, an avalanche of snow fell from the church roof and landed precisely where he had stood at the recycling bins.  He heard the thump, looked back, and saw the pile of snow. He looked at me and said, “God sent you to save my life.” He then went into his pocket, took out a one-dollar bill, and handed it to me. Yes, that is what he did, but let me tell you what he didn’t do.  He didn’t take out a wad of money, thumb through the twenties, tens, and fives until he came to a one-dollar bill, pulled it out, and handed it to me. No, he went into his pocket and took out only one dollar. I said to him, “I am not taking this.” He replied, “It’s not for you; it is for God. He just saved my life.” Then, he walked away humming a happy tune. I thought about that for a moment. If you are homeless and have to look for cans in recycling bins during a storm to get a few nickels together to buy a coffee or hot soup, then you are probably not having a very good day. And yet, he was the happiest person I saw all day because he knew that someone was watching out for him, someone cared about him, someone loved him.

We have heard the phrase “God loved the world so much that He gave His Only Son.” That may not mean a lot to us now. But there will be a time in our lives when we are going to need that information. 

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