I don't communicate well at all, so most people (even my parents) don't know how hard this last semester has been for me, both emotionally and financially.
First, financially: I'm pulling a B in a class where i should have an A, due in large part to the fact that i couldn't afford to buy two of the required books. Most days this semester, i have only eaten one meal a day, because i can't afford more food than that. Some nights, that one meal was nothing but beans and rice. A few times, it was only apples and peanut butter.
I've never not had food. I've never not been able to pay a bill. My bank account has never been in the red. But it has been an uncomfortably tight semester.
Second, emotionally: Of the many trials and tribulations that have made this semester such a roller coaster, the one most relevant to this post has been the enlistment of my little brother in the Marines. He enlisted about a year ago, and communication since then has been practically nonexistent, as he's been in training and has had limited access to phone or computer. Early this semester, he got his orders.
His deployment has been rescheduled several times. This means that his leave has been rescheduled several times. But for a while, it was set at the middle or end of April, leaving me plenty of time to budget and plan and save for a ticket. He was going to have ten days, and he planned to split that time between Maryland (with our mom, sisters, and extended family), Delaware (with our dad), and New York (with his girlfriend). Knowing that Massachusetts (where i live) is much closer to New York than to either Maryland or Delaware, i planned to visit him there. Transportation would be both easier and cheaper, meaning i wouldn't have to pinch quite so many pennies or take quite so much time away from work and school.
But life moves fast in the armed forces, and you can't plan very far ahead. Fortunately, i had not yet bought the tickets when the plans changed yet again. Unfortunately, his new deployment date was much sooner, and his leave was much shorter. I would not have time to visit him, and i would not have money to buy a ticket.
Being both introverted to an almost pathological degree and independent to the point of self-destruction, i did not mention this disappointment to anyone for a week. I quietly resigned myself to the fact that i would not get to bid my brother goodbye, that i would not see him again until Christmas, and tried desperately not to add "if he lives that long" to my thought. But after a week had gone by, i was talking to a friend and mentioned the early deployment and the impossibility of a visit.
"I can afford to take some time off of work, or i can afford to buy tickets. I can't afford both right now," i explained. Later that same day, i repeated this conversation to another friend. I did not mention my predicament to anyone else, nor did either of my friends repeat the conversation to anyone.
The next day, i checked my mailbox. Tucked in between the trashy magazines (hey, they were free) and the reminders of upcoming campus events was an envelope. I didn't recognize the handwriting spelling out my name, but it seemed deliberately nondescript. I opened the envelope and promptly burst into tears.
The envelope contained two twenty dollar bills and a note that said simply, "GO HOME." Forty dollars was almost exactly what i needed for the trip. I ran into the bathroom and shook with tears, whispering prayers of thanksgiving and praise.
Those of us who have faith are very comfortable with the idea of God performing big miracles. When cancer disappears overnight, we chalk it up to the Great Healer. When the perfect job is presented the day after we are laid off, we praise Providence. When the skidding car rights itself and manages to come to a smooth stop out of the ditch and away from any telephone poles or other vehicles, we tell everyone about Divine Intervention. Missing children found, vision corrected, missions trips that all come together at the last minute, we call all of these miracles. And we forget that the God who parted the Red Sea, spoke the stars into place, and multiplied the loaves and fishes is also the God of still, small voices, the God of free chairs when you least expect them, the God of mailbox blessings.
As far as i am concerned, the handwriting on that envelope, the handwriting that i do not recognize, is God's.
There are any number of perfectly reasonable, rational, human explanations for what happened to me on that Thursday afternoon. But none of them exclude God's involvement. After all, what greater miracle could there be than one person extending the grace of God to another?