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JAMES BEHRENS: God is with the winner and the loser

I had just missed my train. I stood on the platform watching the rear car as it slowly moved away. I was the only person there -- everyone else had been on time and was on the train.

I stood there. The next train would be coming soon. So I sat down and waited. Suddenly I heard a high whine sound, like the kind of noise you hear coming from an electronic device, and then I heard the clanging of what sounded like coins hitting the tray in a Las Vegas slot machine.

I turned and located the source of the noise. For some reason, one of the ticket machines was disgorging a bunch of coins. I got up and went over and looked in amazement as the coins kept coming. Then the jingle jangle clinky clink stopped.

I looked around. No one was there. The best I could figure was that a person had that money coming to them but had to board the last train, and could not wait for the machine to cough up. So, I reached in and gathered the coins, which amounted to about $15.

I did not know that there were dollar coins. But there are and I had them. So, I made out good that day.

The Lord giveth, and then the Lord giveth again. The Lord took my train but then the coins came. I was delayed, but happy. Happily delayed.

Some people think that God sends such things our way. So it is that some people think that the Lord sent the coins and that the Lord somehow made me late for the train.

Frankly, I get confused when I try and line things up along such providential lines. It seems to me that God does not bother himself with whatever comes down the chute of a ticket machine or what comes and goes on the track.

But I do think that God is in everything, is everywhere, is early and late, and jingles and jangles all that the same time. He is with the winner and the loser, all at once and forever.

He is the penny in your pocket and the millions in the bank. He is every container imaginable and the best thing we can learn to do is empty ourselves and fill whatever empty space we find in life with love, with attentiveness, with hope.

The universe was once a void.

God made a hole in it, and filled it with life, with us, with ticket machines and late trains.

At least I like to think that way.

Now I know someone is out fifteen bucks. The best I can figure, that person slid a $20 bill into the machine for a $5 ticket and the machine stalled and the train came and the person got on and probably cursed the machine when it seemingly ate the change.

But then I came along and so did the coins.

Our paths will surely never cross again, me and that on-time rider.

I feel I owe something to him or her.

I believe God lives in everyone. Maybe in a roundabout way, I can give $15 to a needy person. I often see them in big cities. And maybe with that money he or she will buy a ticket to a favorite destination, and be late for that train, and will hear the same jingle jangle clinky clink and take the money and feel they owe somebody.

Maybe that is the way salvation works. Give away the excess in the hope that others catch a ride. It may work, all the way to heaven. Maybe that is how we all get to heaven, win or lose, early or late.

Father James Stephen (Jeff) Behrens, O.C.S.O., serves at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, 2625 Highway 212 SW, Conyers. His e-mail address is james@trappist.net.