We’ve all heard the expression, “it’s darkest just before dawn,” or some variation of it. I didn’t realize until today that it’s actually a proverb, first committed to print by the English theologian and historian Thomas Fuller in his religious travelogue A Pisgah-Sight Of Palestine And The Confines Thereof, 1650, citing this view:”It is always darkest just before the Day dawneth.”
It can be viewed as an annoying cliche’ or bromide that people use to offer comfort and hope to someone who is going through a tough time, or as a truism that really should offer us hope. For me, it’s a little of both and it’s right up there “it is what it is,” “everything happens for a reason,” and “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
I’ve come to believe that there’s something else that happens just before the metaphorical “dawn.” We become quiet and still and our needs are met in unexpected and often-times wonderful ways. We tend to think about how being still and asking for help apply only when it comes to major things happening in our life, but miracles small and large are happening all around us every day.
A few months ago I was traveling for business. Normally I make my own travel arrangements, but in this case the company I was visiting took care of the planning and booking of airline tickets, limo transportation and the hotel. My area airport of choice is in Philadelphia, but because I was traveling the weekend the Pope was leaving NYC and headed to Philly, I flew out of Newark to avoid the crowds and potential travel delays. I made it to the airport without getting lost, boarded on time,
had a smooth flight, a ride in a limo and stayed in a beautiful hotel. The following day was filled with productive back to back meetings and conversations. Around 3 o’clock in the afternoon, my much needed break was interrupted by news that my return flight to Newark had been cancelled but new arrangements had been made.
The updated travel plans meant cutting my day shorter than planned but it also meant I’d be home before midnight (or so I thought).
I said my farewells and was whisked away in the limo,
rode in style to the airport and zipped through security with my TSA pre-check boarding passes in hand. Half-way through the first flight to Chicago I decided to check the boarding pass for my connecting flight into Newark.
Much to my dismay and borderline horror, my next flight was headed to JFK in New York City, not to Newark, New Jersey. How could this happen you ask? So did I! It never dawned on me to look at the flight details other than the times – after all why would someone book a return flight into a different city than the originating flight?
My best guess is that one of two things happened – one theory is that whoever made the original reservations said Newark really fast and the person who made the revised arrangements either heard New York or they’ve never heard of Newark. The other theory is that they looked and found that Newark is “only” thirty miles from JFK and it would be easy to get from one airport to the other.
My heart pounded against my chest and I wouldn’t want to know what my blood pressure was in that moment.
One thing I knew was clear, I had no choice but to board the plane in Chicago and figure things out from there.
In addition to highlights of the Pope’s visit to NYC, the news was also filled with updates about modified train schedules and street closings throughout the city so I knew my options could be limited. The first thought I wrote in my journal was, “If I can get a cab for less than $100, I’m going for it.”
The nice young man sitting next to me tried to help by pulling out his app with the NYC subway schedules, “You could take the X line to the Y line and then hop on the Z line and maybe make it to Penn Station before the last train leaves. Of course I don’t know for sure if they’re running on schedule because of the Pope’s visit.”
Thoughtful as he was trying to be, his assistance only conjured up images of myself spending the night at Penn Station with a colorful cast of characters from NYC nightlife.
I asked the flight attendants about cab fare. “You’re looking at a minimum of a $200 cab fare; your better option is to take the airport bus from JFK to Newark, it’ll cost you about $30.”
A $30 bus ride was totally reasonable and sounded like an easy solution to my dilemma. For the rest of the flight, my heart was still and the worries were put aside.
As explained, the booth to buy tickets for the bus between airports was at the bottom of the escalator. The sign said it closed at 10:30 pm, I looked at my watch – it was 10:32 pm. Not one to give up, I approached the man at the booth and asked if I could still buy a ticket to Newark.
“We can hold the bus for 5 more minutes, so you’ll have to decide fast.”
I pulled out my wallet to pay and asked, “Does the bus go directly from here to Newark?”
“No, normally you get on this bus and it goes to the Port Authority parking lot where you would get on another bus, but since the Pope is in town, that area is blocked off and so you’ll need to walk 12 blocks to meet up with the connecting bus that will take you to Newark.”
Schlepping my suitcase for 12 city blocks alone, at night, in NYC did not seem like a very appealing idea.
“Excuse me, I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation,” said the man who had arrived at the booth a few minutes before me. “I’m in the same situation, if I can find us a cab would you want to split the fare with my daughter and me?”
He didn’t need to ask me twice.
This kind stranger negotiated a fare that cost me $80 plus tip.
When we are facing a problem, sometimes a peace and quiet comes over us because we think the problem has been solved and we know what the solution is. Other times we become quiet and still because we “give up” and make a conscious choice to quit trying to chase after the solution and control the outcome.
In those moments of quiet and letting go, miracles happen.