When the prayer is answered in a roundabout way
Portland, Maine – Growing up in a home of faith facilitated my belief in God at an early age.
My father, a great English teacher, writer, PR man and orator, was also very good at public prayers. I never was any good at praying in public, but my father's faith and prayer life influenced my belief in the power of prayer. Over time, my praying routine evolved into a daily communication of informal thoughts sent frequently when I want to thank God for blessings or ask for divine help.
A couple of years after becoming CEO of Parkview Hospital in Brunswick, Maine, Sharon and I got married at a quaint little church on Bailey Island, Maine. We moved into a 70-year-old two-story house on Bailey Island within walking distance to Land’s End, which looked out toward Casco Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.
Bailey Island is part of a Maine community called Harpswell, which includes an oblong-type neck of land, running parallel along with three cigar-shaped back-to-back islands (Great Island, Orr's Island and Bailey Island.)
Land’s End is at the far end of Bailey Island and is known for stunning views, fresh ocean breezes and smells of the unparalleled Maine coast.
I usually walked to Land’s End at night, when the tourists were gone. It was so quiet you could almost hear the twinkling stars bouncing chimes off each other.
Bailey Island is an idyllic community that resembles Cabot Cove, the fictional hometown of Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury) in the TV series "Murder She Wrote."
Most visitors to Bailey Island travel from Harpswell Islands Road at Cooks Corner, crossing the bridge onto Great Island, then traversing across a sharp curve and bridge onto Orr's Island, and then creeping across the world-famous narrow Cribs Stone Bridge onto Bailey Island. This is the only bridge in the world made from stacked crib stones that allow the strong tides (more than 8 feet) to ebb and flow freely several times a day.
After a few days of commuting from Bailey Island to my job as CEO of Parkview, I came to learn that it would take at least 30 minutes to make the one-way journey taking the Mountain Road shortcut to Brunswick. The 30-minute timeframe was assuming you didn't run into any slow-moving traffic along the way, as there were few places one could pass safely.
Two weeks after our wedding, I remember the absolutely stunning fall morning. The colors of trees—red, orange and yellow—complemented one another in the bright morning sun.
That morning, however, I did not have time to pause and enjoy the gorgeous scenery as I was leaving the house at 7:30 a.m. with an important meeting scheduled in my office at 8 a.m. I could not afford any delays if I was going to be on time for my out-of-town distinguished visitors.
Although I was tempted, I just couldn't stop to take a picture when passing the world-famous Mackerel Cove, where the sun was gleaming off the anchored boats that were (as always) all facing in the same direction due to the never-ending change in the strong tides.
After traversing the sharp curve at the Orr's Island bridge, I sent a quick prayer to The Guy upstairs asking to spare me encounters with slow-moving vehicles.
It was hard not to be distracted by the lobster boats working their traps as I crossed the bridge on Mountain Road just before reaching Harpswell Neck Road.
After turning onto Harpswell Neck Road, I was about two-thirds of the way to the hospital. I felt confident my prayer was heard and that the remaining few miles could be traversed with no obstacles in the 12 minutes I had left. I had not encountered any slow-moving vehicles and had been able to smoothly travel above the posted speed limit in some areas.
As I traveled briskly along on Harpswell Neck Road, I rounded a curve and came up quickly on a pickup truck loaded with lobster traps. Oh no! The truck was traveling at 20mph and there was a double yellow line.
With several bends in the road, it could be a while before I found a safe place to pass.I guess my prayer to keep me away from slow-moving vehicles wasn’t a high priority with God after all. “It was obviously not that important and therefore unanswered,” I said to myself.
After cruising a couple hundred feet behind the truck, we suddenly came upon a radar trap set up behind the bushes by a Cumberland County sheriff. I could see the disappointment in the face of the officer, who was holding the radar gun as we were traveling well below the 35mph speed limit.
Shortly thereafter, a passing zone appeared and I was able to safely get around the truck.
It was 7:56 a.m. when I entered the driveway to the hospital off Maine Street.
Even waiting for a mother with her ducklings to cross over the driveway just shy of my office building, I still had time to catch a drink from the hallway water fountain before saying, "good morning" to my faithful executive assistant, Paul, and was in my office at 7:59 a.m.
The slow truck with lobster traps ended up keeping me from being stopped by the radar trap and ensured that my "unanswered prayer" helped me make my appointment on time.
Theodore Lewis is the former CEO of Guam Memorial Hospital and has a health care consulting business based out of Portland, Maine. He is collecting stories about lessons learned in life and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.