George left a note on the kitchen counter one night.
Addressed: “To the Supervisor of Menders of Destinies.”
I suppose you know what I’ve been doing as an apprentice M.O.D..
You probably know what I’ve been thinking, too.
So you know I’m a little anxious about doing harm.
Could we talk?”
He went to bed hoping to be called to the kitchen in the middle of the night.
But he slept through until early morning.
He went in to make his coffee.
And the note was gone.
Not on the floor or on a chair or misplaced or moved elsewhere.
Maybe I just imagined I wrote the note, he thought, or dreamed it.
Maybe this is the end of it.
Then he heard a faint, far away voice say:
“George, we think you’re doing fine as a Mender of Destinies.
Remember: Be thoughtful, think small, be careful, and do no harm.”
George replied aloud, “But I’m afraid of doing harm – that’s what I need to talk to you about – where are you?”
He looked around, “Hello . . . Hello?” . . . but there was nobody there.
Just then George heard the rumble of the garbage truck moving through his neighborhood on its regular Wednesday schedule.
Damn, damn, damn!
Once again George had forgotten to take his garbage out.
In his bathrobe and slippers he scrambled out the door, down the stairs to the apartment’s storage locker, grabbed two rolling dumpsters, and stumbled out into the street in panic mode.
The truck was already there – the garbage man waiting.
He smiled and waved – he had seen George’s comedy routine before.
Across the street a seven-year-old neighbor child was playing with a ball on the sidewalk while she waited for her mother to take her to school.
She dropped the ball.
It rolled out into the street.
The little girl ran after it.
Just as a car turned the corner at high speed.
George saw the oncoming accident, and without thinking he said to himself,
She will fall down right now – So shall it come to pass.
As she fell, her dog raced past her into the street after the ball.
And was hit by the car, which swerved and bumped the garbage man.
And banged into two other cars before it could stop.
Screaming child, howling dog, moaning garbage man, hysterical driver, and on-rushing mother . . .
And dumbstruck George, garbage dumpsters in hand, standing still in his bathrobe and slippers.
Did I do that?
Somebody had called emergency services.
A fire department aid car came from the fire station three blocks away.
With a police car close behind.
Everything will be as OK as possible, thought George.
So shall it come to pass.
And then what happened?
The child was not hurt by falling down – only upset.
The mother calmed down and proved to be cool in a crisis.
The dog was taken away by a neighbor – to the vet to be stitched up.
The driver of the car and the police sorted out minimal vehicle damage.
Under the circumstances, no ticket was issued.
The garbage man was only bruised and shaken up, and he went on with his route – having first emptied George’s garbage into his truck.
The firemen and the ambulance drove back to their stations.
The driver of the car was able to continue driving.
The policeman was called away to another emergency.
And tranquility returned to the neighborhood.
As for George . . . the Mender of Destinies . . .
Half an hour later he was sitting on the front steps of his apartment building.
Still in his bathrobe and slippers.
Staring down the now empty street.
Did all that really happen?
Was it because of my trying to keep the child from harm?
Was it just another coincidence.?
People’s daily destinies were affected – some mended, but some damaged.
Oh sure, the worst didn’t happen – nobody died – but people got hurt, scared, and the dog may be crippled for life.
Could I have done better?
Should I have tried to do better?
There are unintended consequences to trying to mend destinies . . .
To intervene means throwing a stone into the water.
A rock thrown into a pool has ongoing ripples.
George sat holding his face in both hands, on the verge of tears.
Did I do more harm than good?
I must really be getting delusional . . .
George stood up.
He started to drag his garbage dumpsters back into the apartment.
But first he opened each one and looked in.
Empty – the garbage was gone.
At least that part of his morning was real.