Anything could happen. You learn early, if you are fortunate, this simple truth. You prepare yourself for life by realizing there is no possible preparation; you learn to accept uncertainty.
Try telling this to a 23-year-old attempting to backpack alone all over Europe with very little money and no itinerary though. Yes, today this simple fool is me.
Truth be told, I was convinced that there was a Masterplan for me, that Life had anointed me for greater things. Yes, absolutely so.
That was until I realized I was about to miss the ferry from Stranraer to Belfast. You see, the train I had arrived on was half an hour late. Damn.
How did I know this? The grizzled Scotsman whom I had stopped outside a 7Eleven to ask for directions cheerfully shared this bit of Gaelic rail lore with me. Has the Masterplan been revealed as nothing more than an aimless scam?
My look of dismay was interrupted by the Scotsman calling up his wife. She was looking for parking nearby. Instead, he had a better idea: “Honey? Can you take this kid I found to the ferry?”
The intrepid traveller in question was me, of course, and I was about to get rescued.
Five minutes later, I was in a Volkswagen Beetle hurtling for the ferry port. Small talk ensued.
“Malaysia? Isn’t that near Bali?” my rescuer asked.
“Sort of. Indonesia and Malaysia are neighbours,” I said.
“Terrible isn’t it, the bombing? Those terrorists…”
What could I say? This was a year after 9/11 and everyone was still a little paranoid. What could I say?
I was saved by my Good Samaritan driver, who continued without waiting for my reply: “My niece Barbara, she was backpacking, just like you are, in Bali. She flew back three days before the Kuta attack. God bless her.”
I nodded, glad I wasn’t going to get kicked out of the car for sins unknown. (Clearly I wasn’t immune to paranoia myself.)
“Barbara plans to go back, you know. She loves the islands, she said. Where else should she go, you reckon? Does Malaysia have any nice islands? I bet it does.”
I reached my ferry with barely minutes to spare. As I moved over the waters towards Northern Ireland, the only thing on my mind wasn’t relief at not wasting my ticket but astonishment at the kindness and generosity of two complete strangers.
Maybe there was a Masterplan after all. Maybe it’s simply being gentle and kind, however you may find yourself.