What's Tony Thinking

Narrow Misses


There’s something about the story of 66-year-old Ruth Hamilton’s visitation by a 2.8 pound meteorite on  October 3 that can’t help but make you wonder, wonder and smile.

Not that this was the initial reaction of the resident of Golden, B.C., 440 miles east of Vancouver. Hamilton, understandably, didn’t go back to sleep after the meteorite broke through her ceiling at about 11:35 p.m.

While meteorites are falling toward earth literally all the time the odds of what happened to Ruth Hamilton are about one in one hundred billion. Moreover, the space rock landed between two of Hamilton’s “floral pillows” just inches from her head. A narrow miss indeed.

We tend to focus on the things that aren’t narrow misses. Which is understandable. Explosions, building collapses, tidal waves, a disastrous fall from a ladder, a car accident, a terrible illness, an airplane crash.

Narrow misses seldom make the headlines, Ruth Hamilton’s being an exception. But that lack of reportage has to be because, unlike this one, we aren’t often aware of them. But of some we are.

Think of all the bad things that didn’t happen. The huge bull standing in the middle of the highway at twilight that you narrowly missed hitting at 50 mph, two of your grandchildren in the backseat. The storm window that slid off the roof and fell next to, instead of on top of, the two-year-old watching you at the top of the ladder. The cancer you didn’t get. The truck barreling right at you that slipped by without a scratch.

You may think, given my line of work, that where I’m going with this is: “That proves it: there is a God.” While I do trust there is a God, a gracious God at that, I don’t think narrow misses prove God’s being anymore than disasters and tragedies disprove it.

Faith cannot, should not, be precisely hinged to or correlated with worldly fortune and misfortune.

But narrow misses at impossible odds, like Ms. Hamilton’s unexpected and meteoric guest, can remind us how improbable are the odds against any of us being here at all. And how high the odds are against getting through this life as far and as well as we have.

Less than a confirmation of faith, such narrow misses are an electric jolt of perspective. The kind that leaves you stunned and speechless, albeit laughing, whether quietly or uproariously.

One of the grands and I read a book this summer called Cow Boy-Hood, about a 13 year-old who helps out in a cattle drive with his aging grandfather. At one point, there’s a thunder and lightning storm on the open prairie. “Get down,” shouts the grandfather to his grandson. Feet away, a donkey, their pack animal, was hit by lightning and went down in a heap.

They thought sure the animal was dead. But after a while, it twitched, raised its head, slowly got to its feet and ambled off, to the wordless astonishment of grandfather and grandson. Not everything or everyone that gets struck by lightning survives. But in a poetic or metaphorical sense, we’re all staggering around, ambling off, after lightning strikes and narrow misses every day of our lives.

So here’s a toast: to Ruth Hamilton and her meteorite, to all of us and to God too! Isn’t life something!


Categories: Uncategorized