“Everybody has reversals. If you were never down, how would you know when you were up?”
— Anne (State & Main)
There is a girl who used to board the 16 with me, Monday through Friday, at 8:30. She has straight black hair and big almond eyes. She wears black Chucks and has a skull patch on her backpack. I always got the idea she was Greek, though I am so bad at picking out ethnicities I thought my friend Joel (a Filipino) was Mexican the first time we met. She got off at the stop outside the Allina Clinic, so I had assumed she must have worked there in some capacity. When I stopped working in Dinkytown, I stopped seeing her and thinking about her altogether. Then I started riding the 84 north in the mornings, and there she is, boarding with me on an entirely different stop with an entirely different destination.
We have never spoken, and I don’t imagine we ever will. But she is like any number of other small coincidences you, I, we encounter on a day-to-day basis. The middle aged bearded man – he looks to be the model of conservatism if you ignore the worn brown leather jacket and the oddly large hoop earring – with whom I used to ride the 21 in the mid-afternoon but now see on the 61. Even the bitter, aggressive driver of the 63: he used to cuss out riders for their rudeness and demand they get off his bus. He would park between stops and idle until they acquiesced. Now he drives the 50. I imagine backstories and trajectories in all of their lives: some of them ascending, others tumbling. I also imagine I couldn’t be farther from the truth in any case.
The last few weeks at Hope we’ve been talking about reversals of fortune. I think, though, that we need to bear in mind that not every reversal is on the scale of the Jews in Esther or the disciples of the Gospel. Have you ever gone from clothes-rending despair to life-changing elation in the course of 48 hours? (I suspect there are some out there that could claim the opposite, and that’s fair: it’s much easier to tear down than to build up.) No, most of our reversals are on a much smaller scale. A job change that gives us better opportunities down the road …or a raise that keeps us from moving onto a better track. A rebuff from a paramour that opens our eyes to see a better fit with someone else. The biggest turning points of our lives may be something so small that we don’t notice it at the time, and might even be hard to pinpoint in retrospect.
I guess the not-so-subtle super-saccharine point of all that is this: your life might be changing right before your eyes. Pay attention, and thank God just the same. None of us are exactly where we want to be, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t going somewhere.