March 30, 2005

Only Small Mysteries Get Solved

A few weeks ago I wrote about seeing a license plate in Austin with the name--that is, the number--of my Bronx elementary school on it: PS 105. Was there someone here who’d gone to my old school?

This morning as I drove my kids to school I noticed the license plate of the car in front of me and there it was: PS 105. I followed the car through the slow side streets, wondering what I would do if it turned in a direction I wasn’t going in. Honk my horn at it? Race in front of it and stop and confront the driver? I was so excited, I don’t even remember what kind of car it was, or what color: some kind of small, light–colored sedan, I think.

It kept going, and led me on exactly the route I had been going to take to school. When it reached the school block, I dreaded what might happen if it drove past while I had to stop to let off the kids. But PS 105 stopped and parked in front of the school just before I did, and I slipped into the parking place behind it. Fellow students at one elementary school, now fellow parents at another?

“Go! Good–bye!” I shouted to the kids, and shooed them up the school steps. “I have to go talk to this parent!”

I’d told them, as we drove, what the license plate meant to me, but I don’t know if they absorbed the information.

I ran up to the other car, knocked on the driver’s window, and smiled. The woman inside rolled down her window.

“Hi, excuse me, did you go to PS 105?”

She looked at me as if she didn’t know what I was talking about.

“I noticed your license plate. That was my elementary school, PS 105 Bronx.”

“No,” she said pleasantly, as if correcting me. “It’s for Psalm 105. The first line of Psalm 105.”

I nodded, smiling, and assured her I would look it up. You’re not in the Bronx anymore, Richie, you’re in America.

“Give the Lord thanks and invoke him by name, make his deeds known in the world around.” (New English Bible)

So am I to think that the Lord led me on a merry chase in order to convince me of his wonders? The psalm in fact is relevant to me: it retells the story of Israel in Egypt, and the Exodus. Passover is coming soon, it’s a story I’m traditionally obligated to remember and hand down to my progeny.

But I’d be more impressed if the Lord got his priorities straight. All that plotting and scheming, all that moving of cars around on the streets of Austin like a kid playing Hot Wheels, just to lay a faith–snare for someone like me, and just so I could glorify him? It seems like fiddling while Rome burns.