I have a story to share with you – one that might change the way we look at every detail of our lives, labeling them coincidences or miracles. You be the judge!
It was a beautiful Wednesday morning, two days shy of our trip to Miami to start preparing for the Passover holiday in our condo. My day began with the same routine, thanking G‑d for everything that He has blessed me with, and waking up my five beautiful, sleepy children, getting them ready for school. I did my morning workout, got a car wash and a cup of coffee and met my dear friend Beth at the school parking lot. She got into my car and we headed to the Ohel where I was meeting my beautiful mother.
The Ohel is located on Francis Lewis Blvd, Queens where the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, was laid to rest next to his father in-law. I was fortunate to have met him and received a dollar that I still keep in a safe place; he gave a dollar to every individual with the hope that they will, in turn, give another dollar to charity.
The Rebbe was an extraordinary man who cared for every individual, regardless of background, situation or level of observance. A blessing from him always touched my family and me very deeply. Our sages tell us that the Righteous are even greater after their passing than during their lifetime.
My afternoon plan was to spend time there, reading Tehillim (Psalms of King David), and to read the letter that I had written the night before, expressing my wishes for a blessing for my loved ones – and especially, for a safe trip, a wonderful Passover holiday and, of course, to give my mother a hug and kiss and then, to head home.
Driving on the Cross Island Parkway and in a deep conversation with Beth, I almost missed the exit. Looking both ways, I made a quick right turn on the ramp to get off the exit – in the process, driving over a pothole. I panicked and was so angry with myself. Why didn’t I just go one more exit and turn around? And now, I probably had a flat tire or something far worse. I immediately pulled over. I got out of the car and said to myself, “Everything happens for a reason – do not worry!”
The tires were intact and everything that I could see was fine. I proceeded to the cemetery, still a bit shaken. I was about to make a U-turn and park next to the cemetery, and that’s when I heard it – a screeching sound coming from the front of the car. Beth told me to pull over next to a house. I was so nervous and shaken. We both got out and saw that the plastic cover under the front bumper of the car was loose and half of it was dragging on the ground.
My mind went blank. Beth was trying very hard to console me. She said, “Everything will be fine. Let’s call AAA; it’s only a car,” she kept telling me. But I was numb and distracted and I wanted to go home. My husband, Jimmy, was in Alabama at his monthly conference and I could not reach him. He would always tell me what to do; he has a way of always making things right, but I did not want to bother him.
Wait! My mother was meeting me. She would know. She’s my mother, she is a woman of all talents and, all of a sudden, I felt like a little girl. I was holding onto the comfort and security of my mother who would kiss me and make it all go away. I turned to Beth and said, since we are here, let’s go in and read some Tehillim and our letter. I added to my letter, asking G‑d through the Rebbe’s merit, that I was so nervous and upset that I had no idea how I am going to make it home. In my heart I did not know how I was going to get out of this jam.
We took candles to light, gave charity and went in. I started reading Psalms and I have to tell you I could not focus and concentrate. Where was my faith? Yes, everything happens for a reason, so why could I not feel and make the connection between my head and my heart that everything will work out? Beth was telling me all the things that one needs to hear to focus and that things could always be worse, but I wasn’t hearing her. My fear and panic ruled over me. My words were read in vain. My body was at the Ohel but my mind was outside, trying to figure out what to do about my car and how I was going to get home.
Beth and I completed our visit and washed our hands upon leaving the cemetery. We went out to wait for my mother. Where was she? I was very anxious. She showed up 15 minutes later, all dressed up and beautiful. I told her what happened and, of course, when we walked to the car, she got down and looked under the hood. In her calming and assuring voice, she told me not to worry. “It is only a protective gear. I’ll pull it off and you’ll be able to drive home quietly.”
She starting pulling, but it was stuck. She needed a screwdriver and Beth said she would cross the street to a nearby house to ask for one. At that very moment, she saw a man appear from the house next to which we were parked and asked him if he would be kind enough to lend us a screwdriver. I turned around, and there in front of me was this man in his early 50s wearing a mechanic’s uniform! He asked us to move the car to his driveway so he could have a look.
In no time at all, he got the proper tools from his garage and was able to wire the covering. He assured me that I would have no problem getting home, but to have it looked at once I got home. I was staring at an angel who came to my rescue. I thanked him from the bottom of my heart and told him he was G‑d-sent. He really was! All the events of the day started to run through my mind . . . if I did not hear the noise when I did, I would never have parked next to this house, if my mother were on time, would we have seen this man? My story does not end here.
I gave my mother the big hug and kiss that I was waiting to give her and headed home. Beth and I were thanking G‑d and, of course the Rebbe, all the way to Plainview, Long Island. When we got there, Beth insisted on following me with her car to Huntington Honda where they were expecting my car. My dear friend David Palmer is a service advisor there. He took my car immediately and assured me he would make sure to check it out completely. Before leaving, David showed me a copy of a letter that a customer had given him, signed by the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
“What a treasure,” I told him. “Keep it close to your heart.” I was staring at the Rebbe’s signature before handing it to David. Is this a sign? I went to lunch with Beth and, within 35 minutes, David called me to come and get the car. On the way back, we saw a doubled parked car with flashing lights, slowing down traffic. As we approached it, we read the license plate, “TANKS2GD.” Beth and I looked at each other and could not believe what we just saw. “Thank G‑d” should really be the title of my story.
I got my car and everything checked out perfectly. I turned to Beth to thank her and say goodbye, when I saw that a man was sitting in her car. Beth turned to me and said “Odette, you are not going to believe this. This man was my next-door neighbor when we were growing up. I haven’t seen him in 25 years. Who knew he worked in Huntington! I would have never known, if I did not follow you here.”
As I reflect back on that day, there were so many lessons and messages to be learned. We pray and wonder if our prayers are being heard and the answer is yes, they are. You don’t need to be next to a Tzaddik’s resting place. We just have to open our eyes and mind and accept what goes on around us, and simply “communicate.” My fear overcame my faith. Even though I could not focus on my prayers and give G‑d all of my concentration, He heard me anyway. At that very moment I understood that G‑d does not need our prayers. We do.
There are so many miracles that happen every day, and I am not talking about the splitting of the red sea and a talking donkey. I am referring to our every day lives, our children, our spouses, our homes, our jobs, our friends and so much more. Within your day, open your eyes and see G‑dliness and the blessings we have and often time take for granted because of the stress of our days. After all, G‑d did not create this extraordinary world just for Himself; we are partners with Him. Thanks2G‑d and the Rebbe. Everyone has a story to share. Is my story a mere coincidence, or is it an ordinary miracle? You be the judge!