The Indian Jesuit, Tony de Mello, told this story.
There once was a farmer who lived in a village. Along with his neighbours he struggled to make ends meet. One day news came that his old father had died. His friends and neighbours gathered to offer their condolences. “Bad luck”, they said, but the farmer simply replied, “Good luck, bad luck, who knows?”
The farmer inherited a magnificent, white horse from his father. Friends and neighbours gathered to celebrate his good fortune, but again he simply said, “Good luck, bad luck, who knows?”
One day the white horse escaped to the hills and could not be found. When his friends and neighbours expressed their commiserations, the farmer simply repeated his mantra, “Good luck, bad luck, who knows?”
A week later the horse returned, along with a herd of wild horses. “Good luck!” exclaimed the neighbours. “Good luck, bad luck, who knows?” replied the farmer.
The farmer’s son attempting to tame one of the horses, fell off and broke his leg. “Such bad luck”, said the neighbours. But again the farmer simply replied, “Good luck, bad luck, who knows?”
Then war broke out. The army conscripted all of the young men to fight. However the farmer’s son with the broken leg was allowed to stay. Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?
This story made me think about various times in my life. Poor A level results meant my friends headed off to university whilst I stayed at home to repeat. Good luck, bad luck? I had a great time. My life took a different path leading me to the person I was to marry. (Thirty years later that’s still good luck!)
Some years ago I had an operation. I had a great recovery. Good luck, bad luck? A year later, internal scarring from that operation led to a life-threatening situation and a four month stay in hospital. Eventually I was able to leave hospital. I then developed sepsis and spent that beautiful, hot summer stuck in hospital. Good luck, bad luck?
What did I discover, and what does it have to do with Tony de Mello’s story? I discovered that in this life good things happen and bad things happen. Sometimes we cause them and sometimes they just happen. But thinking of those times when I felt utterly, utterly abandoned by God, I look back and see that He never left me. He was always there, quietly sustaining me. I discovered His presence in the unceasing love of my family. I discovered Him in the faithfulness of my friends, in the care of the wonderful nurses, cleaners and doctors and in the comradeship of other patients. He was there in the humility and suffering of Johnny, Mairead and Alyson with whom, by God’s grace, I was privileged to journey.
No matter what happens, God is present. No matter how you feel, God is present. No matter where you go, God is present. He is the constant presence in our daily lives, in the people we encounter, in the world around us. Too often, in our busyness, we fail to recognize Him and do not see where He is leading us. So we pray to be open to His goodness working in us and for us. Thy will be done.
Aisling Murray is a former teacher of Saint Anne’s Primary School, Derry.