The Pool Guy

October 4, 2010

Recently I have put my mind to acknowledging miracles and looking for them in every day life. The average reader will assume I’m doing this because I’m prone to believe in miracles and they would be wrong. I look for them because I’m prone not believe in them. It’s sort of like how I read as many scientific journal articles that mention missing links because I don’t believe in them. I’m hoping they prove me wrong, and I’m rooting for them just the same.

Part of how I will identify miracles, as opposed to just freak accidents, is to pray with specified complexity. If I ask God for a donut, I might be offered a donut by a colleague and wonder if it was a coincidence or a miracle, but if I pray that I get a custard filled chocolate glazed donut from a stranger in need of my help, the details go to rule out a happy accident. It still isn’t empirical evidence, but it helps assuage my skepticism. Anything that takes my skepticism down a notch is always a good thing because I’m got enough for two people, even if those two people were David Hume.

So my pool guy rings me at the back door. He never rings me at the back door. He hands me a pool thermostat trigger thingy and says, “I’ve had this part in my glove box for 8 months. Your heater went out, and given I had the part, I just tried to pop it in and it’s working fine.”

I’ve had my pool guy for seven years, and we’re good enough friends, but our conversation almost never goes to religion. That shows how crappy of a Christian I am, I suppose, but it gives me the credibility to say that he’s not one of those spooky kinds of guys. He’s looking down at my back door, looking for the right words to say, “God told me not to charge you for the thermostat trigger.”

All of the normal skeptical thoughts came to my mind where I instantly dismiss a supernatural event, credit it to his own guilty feelings, personal manipulation of my own religious experience or who-knows-what. Anything but the reason he gave me, right?

I reached for my wallet, “You don’t have to do this. I can pay, and I’ll credit your good intent as not actually charging me because God doesn’t want you to. This can be a tip.”

The pool guy looked almost angry, “I know, I already ran through every excuse I could and I felt justified in charging you and blowing off God telling me not to charge you. So I was about to charge you and God told me again not to charge you. So I’m not charging you.”

Neither of us would have made the mistake of thinking the pool guy did so out of generosity. And while I was happy to be spared being charged 200 bucks for the part plus my pool guy’s labor fee, it’s not like my life would have ended if he gave me the full bill. Before he left I told him my daughter’s lizard-saving miracle story. I wasn’t sure why I saw two weird miraculous events within two weeks but I thought it was at least my responsibility to share them.

My pool guy left and I didn’t know exactly what to think. I did take my pool guy at his word because I know him to be a normal, average guy who has never shared a supernatural event in seven years of knowing him. Why these two seemingly insignificant events? Why were they both at the pool? Why are these other people communicating with God and I’m just here to watch it happen?

I don’t have any of those answers. I do think that part of why we get mad at the idea of God doing miracles is that He never seems to do them in a rational order like we would want them. God doesn’t perform a miracle where there is the greatest need, or he would be all over Africa, or follow the fire department around saving everyone’s life. He doesn’t do the best thing, because there are better miracles that could be done.

For whatever reason I’m thinking about miracles of late, I can do the Pulp Fiction choice and either see a miracle like Jules or see a freak accident like Vincent. The end of their story arc will tell you that Vince was the none-too-good way to go. I’ll take the $200 bucks and thank God for it, then tell you about it.


10 Responses to “The Pool Guy”

  1. Patrick Says:

    Thanks for sharing your miracles with us Doug. I wish I had a, “Oh yeah, you think that’s a miracle? Well let me tell you what happened to me..!” topper for ya, I really do, but I’ve never been good at exaggerating (aka, lying) to make a boring story interesting.

    My friends from High School liked to tell a story about me – even if you’ve never never met me (and you haven’t) you’ll know me from this one event. We were on a road trip somewhere – can’t even remember where. Everyone else was asleep in the car. It was my turn to drive. When the other guys started to wake up, they started chatting and I told them about a cop that followed me for a while. I was getting nervous, but eventually he passed me. That’s how I ended my story, “…and then he passed me.” After a pregnant pause (queue chirping crickets)… they busted up laughing and couldn’t stop for miles. One of them would say, “…and then he passed me!” and the guffaws would begin all over again. Being the Puritan that I raised to be, I was mystified when they told me that they always “exaggerate” to make their stories more interesting. I began to wonder how many lies I’d believed over the years. Never could get the knack – of exaggerating my stories to make them more interesting.

    I used to think it was just immoral lying, but now I see it for what it is – respect for your audience. If you’re going to take up their time and assault their ears with your vocal cords, it’s only good manners to try and be somewhat interesting. My slavish adherence to reality, I’ve come to realize, is just laziness. Which is why I’m a computer programmer and not a novelist.

    Now that I think about it, the miracle is that we didn’t kill ourselves on those road trips. I remember one time after driving for a few hours in the wee hours of the morning having that odd anti-de-ja-vue feeling: I couldn’t remember the last couple of hours. It was as if I’d been driving asleep. Very freaky feeling. Thank God for miracles. Maybe it’s his way of keeping the story interesting.

  2. will le fey Says:

    What makes you think that if there are gods, they care about the affairs of humans? We don’t normally care about the affairs of moths, unless they’re fluttering around our lamp and making a nuisance of themselves.

    • tennapel Says:

      If there are gods, if cared enough to make a human they might care enough about a human’s affairs.

      If there are people who work on self-aware software programs, why would they care about the affairs of this self-aware program as it operates in the world? A very good reason would be because the program maker made it.

      Maybe some people’s lives are the equivalent of a moth fluttering around a lamp, but some people accomplish a little more than that. My children aren’t as well educated as me, aren’t as eloquent, coordinated or wise as me, but I still care a whole lot when they flit about a lamp. In fact, I care a lot more about them than most other people-things-creations of mine.

      • will le fey Says:

        Or just observe them without interfering?

        One day, the Very Ancient Ones Who Made Everything decided that they would create a moth. They gave the moth wings that could beat faster than any other flying creature’s wings. They gave the moth a body that was soft and delicate. But they also gave it a special garment to protect its soft body. The only times the moths would take off their protective garment was when they would make love in their well-hidden nests. One day, the chief moth asked the Very Ancient Ones Who Made Everything if he could be granted to the power to fly to the sun. The Ancient Ones agreed, but they set one condition: “The moth must not bring back fire to mankind.” The moth told his family and friends where it was going, packed some food, and began to fly to the sun. Instead of being blinded by the sun, the moth could see more clearly than it ever had before. Instead of being burned by the sun, the moth felt a comforting warmth. The moth looked back down to the earth and saw men shivering in the cool of the evening (for it was now night). “I will bring this fire down to them, so that they can warm themselves,” said the moth. The moth flew around the sun ten times in one direction and ten times in another direction, then it flew back to the earth.

        “I have brought you fire from the sun,” said the moth to the men. Here. The men thanked the moth.

        The Very Ancient Ones Who Made Everything were very angry. They said to the moth: “Because you have given fire to the men, all mothkind will lose their protective garments. They will be uncontrollably attracted to anything that resembles fire. Some day the descendents of the very men you gave the fire to will crush your kind and think nothing of it.”

        The moth was very sad. He told the other moths what had happened, and explained why their protective garments had disappeared. His family was sad, and the rest of the moths were angry. He was sentenced to go into exile. The moth went to the Very Ancient Ones and said: “I beg one more thing of you. Since I must go into exile, let me go live alone on the moon.” The Very Ancient ones granted him his wish.

  3. M Kitchen Says:

    I’ve got an incredible miracle story. Not for internet broadcast, but if we’re at another Comic Con I’ll tell you the story in person.

  4. willheim Says:

    Well, I had a long dream about my uncle dying some years ago – he told me so many special things. the next day my my wife and I went on a long bike ride. When we came back there was one phone message. I knew what it was. My uncle had died.

    I’ve had like three of those now.

    My God uses my dreams to talk to me.

  5. Joules Says:

    Good one, Doug. Glad that God is willing to teach us. A fellow autism mom who’ss single shared with me two weeks ago that she had been through a terrible time of emotional and physical breakdown and job loss in the past year, was using 5 different prescriptions and wasn’t well at all. I tried to encourage her, offered her food if they needed it, and told her I would call or visit with her any time if she wanted to. The following Sunday I asked the committed pray-ers at church to pray for her. As I prayed, I was expecting to hear something kind of good in months but it seemed necessary to ask God to please act specifically to help her right now. I saw her yesterday and she said, “Hey, I start my new job tomorrow and I’m off all the medication and I feel like me again. I’m not lying on the couch. I’m taking care of the house and playing with the kids.” I told her we had all been asking God to help her. Her mouth dropped open. “No way,” she said. “My sister believes in God.” That was all, then we went into the classroom to do the art lesson with the 6th – 8th grade autism classroom. Hand over hand for the ones who couldn’t coordinate the movements, chalk outlines of animals they chose, shading the background with their favorite colors.

  6. P Mike Says:

    Don’t have any good anecdotes. I tend to be overly rational, but when good things happen I usually thank God. When bad things happen, I usually forget to ask for His help & just endure –unless things get really bad.

    I got a Tee shirt a month ago that says (I know, a little goofy & sappy) “Coincidence — IS WHEN GOD CHOOSES TO REMAIN ANONYMOUS — Phil. 2:13 * Prov. 3:5-6”

  7. Ricardo Says:


    I would have so liked to have seen your comments on Roger Ebert’s “Miracle” entry in his journal. That would have been an interesting debate. ;)

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