Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best
by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble,
reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst;
the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.
Philippians 4:8, The Message
In this very difficult time of pandemic and lockdown, I have been reminded of the importance of counting green cars. I say that because it was counting green cars that started my friend Bob down a wondrous and beautiful path.
I wish you could have known Bob. I wish everyone could have known Bob, because he had a way of blessing everyone who knew him. He was an exceptional man. But Bob’s life had not always been so blessed or a blessing. Something changed Bob. It happened as Bob’s life was going from bad to worse and he could not see any way out. So Bob sought help in a recovery program and was assigned a mentor who had also suffered.
But in Bob’s first meeting with his mentor, his mentor gave him an assignment that didn’t make any sense. “Bob,” he was instructed, “I want you to count every green car you see tomorrow, and then tomorrow night call me and tell many how many you saw.”
Bob thought his mentor’s assignment sounded crazy, but Bob was desperate and ready to try anything. So, on his way to work the next day Bob began counting green cars. Bob told me that he was surprised at how many green cars he saw. He knew there were a lot of white cars, and silver cars, but had no idea there were so many that were green.
That night Bob dutifully called his mentor to report the number of green cars he had counted. “Great,” his mentor responded. “Now tomorrow I want you to do the same thing and call me tomorrow night.” Bob was even more skeptical about the strange assignment, but knew he needed help. So, again the next day Bob counted green cars and reported back the next night. “But why?” Bob asked, “Why do you have me counting green cars? It doesn’t make any sense!”
“Bob,” his mentor began to answer, “did you have any idea there were so many green cars?” Bob had to admit he did not think there were so many green cars until he started counting them. That’s when his mentor zeroed in on a life lesson. “The truth is Bob, you find what you are looking for. If you go out looking for thoughtless people, rejection, and ugliness, you will find it. But if you go out looking for kindness, beauty, and love, you will find it. That’s because you find what you are looking for!”
With eyes gleaming, Bob told me how that conversation with his mentor marked the turning point in his life. Bob began finding what he was looking for. So instead of finding store clerks that were rude, or neighbors who were uncaring, he was surprised by how many people he found who were thoughtful and kind, and how many days were filled up with beauty.
I think Bob’s experience points to what the apostle Paul writes about in today’s scripture. We find what we are looking for, what we focus on. Locked down and quarantined in a Roman prison, Paul urges Christians in Philippi who also suffered, to look for the good and the beautiful: “you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on…the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.”
Since Bob told me about counting green cars, you would be amazed at how many kind baristas have served me coffee, how many gracious volunteers have gone the extra mile, and how many beautiful sunsets I have seen.!
Especially during these difficult days of a worldwide pandemic, I am grateful to Bob and a mentor who remind me to look for and to find the goodness and beauty in life, every day.
A Fellow Traveler,