Thirteen years ago, this month, MSH had just landed a contract out-of-state at a facility that had something or other to do with the airplane industry. He’d had a ton of gigs that lasted various lengths of time and I seldom kept track of what exactly each involved. On the morning of September 11 he called me, told me to turn on the TV, and the world changed. A couple of weeks later he drove back home, his contract ended abruptly along with hundreds of other contractors and employees. A similar scene unfolded all over the country that fall and winter.
Months and months and months and months later, I forget now how long, no other contracts came available, no other work opened up. All our reserves siphoned away, all our options dried and cracked like a Phoenix river bed.
I took a sales position that brought in enough to cover a couple of the utilities. I took on other manual labor as well. MSH took what work he could get, but it utilized none of his decades of experience in the computer industry. Not a nice memory to look back on, I can assure you.
Surprisingly, a few bright spots shine through the dark, hopeless feeling of that time.
One ray of light in particular stays with me.
Occasionally, unpredictably, an envelope would show up taped to our door, a twenty-dollar bill tucked inside. No writing on the envelope. No clues whatsoever where it came from.
Twenty dollars bought a grocery cart full of fresh produce where I shopped. Gratefully that’s usually how we used that gift.
Tucked inside that envelope, along with the crisp or crinkled bill, a bit of hope and a sliver of love. I never had any way of thanking whoever thought to send such caring our way. The timing of it always caught me off guard, usually on a day of discouragement and exhaustion.
If I didn’t already believe in angels before those twenties started showing up on my door, I certainly became a believer afterwards.
Whoever sacrificed that amount for us and taped it to our door may not have had wings or known how to fly, but they most surely wore a halo shining with human kindness and glowing with sensitivity.
Almost every time I use a twenty-dollar bill all these years later, I’m reminded of those twenties that blessedly and magically came our way.
When I start to think that the world holds little of goodness in it, or I get discouraged by life in general, I simply remember back to those envelopes on my door and feel grateful for good people, the real gifts from heaven.
This song kept rolling through my head as I wrote today… Might have something to do with the record rainfall we’ve had today in the Phoenix area. Or it could have been a message I needed to hear. I’ve included the original version by Bing Crosby as well as a cover by more recent artists.
I’m wondering if it needs to make a comeback.
Or if you prefer a more current rendition here’s the Paul Anka and Michael Buble cover of Pennies from Heaven.
(Here’s the lyrics.)
A long time ago
A million years BC
The best things in life
Were absolutely free.
But no one appreciated
A sky that was always blue.
And no one congratulated
A moon that was always new.
So it was planned that they would vanish now and them
And you must pay before you get them back again.
That’s what storms were made for
And you shouldn’t be afraid for
Every time it rains it rains
Pennies from heaven.
Don’t you know each cloud contains
Pennies from heaven.
You’ll find yor fortune falling
All over town.
Be sure that your umbrella is upside down.
Trade them for a package of sunshine and flowers.
If you want the things you love
You must have showers.
So when you hear it thunder
Don’t run under a tree.
There’ll be pennies from heaven for you and me
~Arthur Johnston and Johnny Burke