It was a dreary mid-winter day in Macon, Georgia. I was teaching my fifth-graders at Winship Magnet School, located in a “declining” part of the city. I had plans to work till about 5 and then meet my husband, an electrical contractor, for dinner before we both drove home to Reynolds, about 40 miles away.
I parked my little teal green Mercury Topaz in its usual place, and it sat patiently waiting for my return. I had only had the little car a couple of years, and it still felt new to me—so dependable after my last car, and cute, too. I gave it an affectionate pat on the trunk as I walked away.
This was before the days of cell phones, in the “olden days” called the mid-nineties, so I had to leave my classroom to take Ronny’s call about 11 a.m. It was highly unusual for him to call me at work, so my radar was on high alert by the time I reached the office to take it.
Yes, there was a problem. He had locked his keys in his truck about two miles away at the Home Depot. I told my principal I needed to take him my key, and she rolled her eyes as if to say, “Men!” and gave permission.
Locked his keys in the car? He hadn’t done that in decades. It was very unusual for him; he was always careful about such things. But today, it had happened.
I walked out to my little Topaz. And my dependable, perfect little car wouldn’t start. No click, no rev, no nothing. I tried several times; no luck. Well, this was weird. I went back into the school and asked a friend if I could borrow her car to take the key to Ronny.
When I reached Home Depot, Ronny had a couple of his workers with him, and he felt a bit embarrassed to have made such an “amateur mistake.” I assured him it was no big deal, laughed, and told him to come by the school and see about my car before he went back to work.
He couldn’t get it to start, either. He lifted the hood and looked and poked and prodded, but to no avail. Finally, he called a nearby car repair shop for help. That fellow towed it to his shop and did a more thorough search.
A car is a complex and wondrous machine, and I have never felt called to learn a great deal about their inner workings. Well, it turns out that there is a little thing in a car called a starter wire, and my starter wire had broken sometime between my starting the car that morning and coming back outside at 11.
The starter wire must be properly engaged for the automobile to start. That car was never going to start without repair.
I’ve heard “coincidence” defined as “a small miracle in which God chooses to remain anonymous.” Had Ronny not locked his keys in his truck and had to call me to bring mine, I would have finished my school day as usual, been the last person to leave, and been stranded in the parking lot in a questionable part of Macon, Georgia, on a quickly-darkening winter night. The school would be locked up tight, and I would have been – or at least would have felt – unsafe.
I believe there was design behind Ronny’s very rare small mistake of locking his keys inside the truck, and that was to alert us to the problem with my car. I didn’t know about starter wires, but God did. Because things happened as they did, my Topaz was repaired and back in its spot before school was out that day. I left the parking lot that evening with a renewed sense of awe and gratitude that his protection was over me at all times, even when I didn’t know I needed it.