It was early in the first days of the Wuhan virus here in suburban Philadelphia. My college student, Analise, had recently come home for spring break, but returning to school and in person classes would become impossible with the Covid lockdown. Each day we were assessing the impact, what routines were being altered and which parts of our normal daily living would be compromised and missed.
She fretted that she didn’t know what to do because her regular trips to the gym would be impossible now, and she relied on them for stress relief and keeping fit. She said, “I don’t know how I will do the cardio. I don’t have an exercise bike. What am I going to do?” I suggested that she try running again. It was clear that didn’t excite her. I said quietly to myself, it is unfortunate but there will be no stationary bike and she will have to make due for the duration.
Let me preference the remainder of this story by telling you that my 23 year old was in a crisis of faith and had been for months.
When she was still in high school she went to not insignificant lengths to convert to Catholicism. She wanted the knowledge. She wanted the faith. She wanted the camaraderie. She wanted the Christian God. It was heartwarming for me to drive her to her Confraternity of Christian Doctrine classes every week as she wasn’t yet able to drive.
Don’t get me wrong. I was raised Catholic, but my personal ties are much more to Christianity than to the Catholic Church. The Church has betrayed so many and puts forth lessons, commandments, and guidelines from which the Church itself has declared itself, by its own actions, to be exempt.
Nevertheless, I was impressed with her and so proud of her having committed wholeheartedly to the holy side of it all, so much so that she wanted immersion.
A few years subsequent and she could no longer find God, not in her surroundings and certainly not in herself. And this separation pained her greatly as it does to all who are separated.
So here we were — she and I deposited by fate in the midst of a pandemic together. It was unknown territory (now it has become quite familiar), and at the time quite scary and foreboding.
I maintained some semblance of my weekend routine. Walking my dog in the early a.m. on Sundays was the norm. On this particular day, however, my dog and I ventured out somewhat later than usual. Although it was already nearly 10:00 a.m. there was noticeably no sound of the usual traffic in the distance and no neighbors out and about in this well cared for community. That too was unusual as there were always morning walkers. As my dog and I walked, I thought that it seemed folks were still at home, drinking coffee, catching up on the news, or perhaps just wrestling out of bed not only because Sunday routines COULD be disrupted but also because we all seemed to be in a state of shock at it all. I walked and I wondered…how will this go, who will survive, will people and families be scarred forever? What can we expect?
It was Sunday morning and my world was quiet and people-less. And then I saw it.
A few blocks from home, on the left side of the street on the green grass at the end of a neighbor’s driveway was a small stationary bike. Less than 24 hours after Analise said she wanted one, there it was. Yes. I kid you not. I thought NO. This can’t be. There must be something wrong here. No one leaves an exercise bike, let alone a very heavy one, outside at the very end of their driveway. It must be broken and ready for the trash. Then I thought how silly that thought was because there are no trash pickups on Sunday, and no one here ever puts out trash on Sunday morning. Rather, the owner of this bike must be offering it for another to take and enjoy. Besides, there were no trash cans or full recycling bins anywhere.
I couldn’t tell if it worked because everything about the bike was heavy. I couldn’t get on the seat because Harry, my dog, was on a leash and I didn’t want to deal with his confusion and his subsequent agitation. The pedals didn’t seem capable of moving. They were impossible to push forward. The bike was heavy, but indeed it was the most petite exercise bike I have ever seen.
Another occurrence of happenstance happened at that exact moment. I tapped my left jacket pocket and it was there! I ripped my phone out of my pocket and dialed my still asleep daughter. You see, it was highly unusual for me to have my cell phone with me on my dog walks. Typically, the phone would remain at home while Harry and I took our constitutionals.
I dialed Analise. She answered sleepily and I knew my call woke her up. I said calmly but with expectation, “You aren’t going to believe what I just found.” “Whaaaat?” she said as though this better be good. “Ana, I am walking down the hill and there on the grass at the end of a driveway is an exercise bike.” “WHAT??? WHERE are you?” So I explained the seeming condition of the heavy bike. Working status uncertain I indicated. I also stated that it was pretty clear the owner didn’t want it anymore and was leaving it for someone else who might want it. And then the drilling started. Where are you? Stay there. Will it fit in my car? Do you really think it might? Exactly where are you? I can’t believe it. Some of those sentences were repeated in her excitement and disbelief. There was even some acceptance that if the bike didn’t pedal forward, Analise would be happy to pedal backward. I had utter joy and hope that this would all work for her benefit.
Please know she has nearly the smallest car on the planet, a black Ford Ecosport, perfect for a college student and now a new graduate, but indeed this newly discarded and found bike treasure was smaller still. It was a struggle and I wasn’t much help holding a leash but through her sheer grit and determination, my Analise got that precious bike in her back seat. Fortunately, it was a very short ride back home or the one handle bar would surely have penetrated her upholstery. She hauled that baby home and into the house, while Harry and I completed our walk. She is pretty darn strong I say.
Analise knows. And I know as well. Finding that exercise bike was a surprise gift from God, an indication that although she felt abandoned by him, indeed she is far from forgotten. I often say that when we can’t sense Him He just might hit you with a brick. Frankly, the brick isn’t always welcomed. In fact, it can be a real turning point in life – to wake you up using life’s hard lessons. In this case, however, the message was over the moon kind and loving and a life moment never to be forgotten or diminished. It was a perfect, painless gift from God at a time most needed. From a mother’s human perspective it seemed to arrive rather late, but thankfully it was very clear in its message.
Imagine that. In the midst of a pandemic.
May God bless you too with over the moon kind and loving serendipity, especially when it is most needed and least expected.
As for you, my dear Analise, Happy Non-graduation Graduation! Congratulations on your accomplishments. You and God will conquer mountains.
During the Pandemic 2020