It was the morning of Good Friday, 1995. I was driving towards downtown Mill Valley, coming up to a 4-way stop that I have passed through hundreds of times. My mind was elsewhere. I had been laid off from IBM several months before, and had gone through most of my severance. My previous five years had been spent dodging bullets as the company had gone from 400K employees to 250K. I had a mortgage, no financial net, and only one job prospect, the possibility of which was fast diminishing. Distracted, I slammed into the back of a white pickup truck, which was at full stop. I was completely stunned. I literally did not see the truck that was in front of me. This was a minor event accident wise. The only damage was to the truck driver’s trailer hitch. I, however, fell apart.
Now, I can be a klutz. I can trip over my own feet, bump into doorknobs, but I do not do stupid things on the road. I’ve never even had a speeding ticket! This was so completely out of character for me, that I couldn’t really process or even fathom what had happened.
As the day wore on, my distress increased – so much so, that I phoned my church choir director and lied to him saying that I’d become ill and could not sing the Good Friday concert that evening. Yes, that’s right. I lied to my choir director. Another unfathomable thing for me.
I spent next day trying to make sense of what had happened and why I had such an over reaction. I knew I was stressed. For months I had been trying to redirect my career from Systems Engineering to something I saw as more spirit driven – something I felt “called” to do. I didn’t quite have a clear vision, but as part of my severance package, yes, they were good back then, I’d been given outplacement services from a company called DBM. They assisted people who had been separated from their companies in finding new opportunities.
The first time I walked into DBM, I felt that I had found my work home. I hardly knew who they were or what they did, but I felt these were my people. Not knowing what else to do, I decided to just follow that feeling.
Now breaking into the company was a whole other matter. I had no direct experience on the consulting side, and besides, they weren’t hiring. So I applied for the only job they had. It was an Executive Marketing position.
It was not the job I wanted, but I felt I could do it, and thought that down the road, I ‘d somehow get myself to the consulting side of the business. I was the only candidate they were looking at, but weeks and weeks had passed and nothing was happening.
Easter morning rolls around – a big day for the choir, but I still could not pull myself together from the events that had occurred on Friday. I dragged myself to the 11:00 AM service and “hid” in the back of the church behind one of the pillars, still embarrassed that I had blown off the concert.
Our senior pastor read the New Testament lesson from Mark, the version where the women had found the empty tomb of Jesus, but they literally could not see or believe what was in front of them. At this point I am starting to get a little anxious. He then shares a modern day equivalent. He spoke of a man he knew who had either recently lost his job, was getting a divorce, or both. He had been so distracted by his life circumstances, that he rear-ended a car on the Golden Gate Bridge – a car that he just didn’t see!
Now, I am desperately trying not to cry, which puts me in real danger of going into the “ugly cry” – which is what happens when you try to stuff down your emotions, but the tears come anyway. I now clearly know that God is speaking directly to me and all I could do was say, “God, I am listening, I will pay attention to what is in front of me, and trust in you”.
The next morning at 8:00 AM, I’m awake, but still in bed as I’ve no place to rush to. The phone rings and it is DBM saying that they had re-organized, and the job I’d applied for no longer existed. I was calm, sort of, and thanked them for considering me and asked them to please let me know if there were any other opportunities, and to please keep me in mind. I hung up and got into the shower, saying to both God, and myself again, “I’m listening, and looking at what’s in front of me and trusting in you”. When I got out of the shower, there was a voicemail from the Consulting Manger at DBM asking me to come in for an interview the next day for a consulting position – the very job I wanted.
It has been 20 years, and I am still in awe as to how all of this unfolded. That job became the first step of truly re-writing the script of my life. From there, I became a certified coach, went to the San Francisco Theological Seminary to study Spiritual Direction, and over 14 years ago, started my own company where I have the privilege of working with others as they find and answer their own unique call in life.
Today, I still feel thankful for the white pickup truck I couldn’t see, grateful that God didn’t give up on me, even when I was blind, and I am amazed how God often whispers to us, and if that doesn’t work, nudges us, and if we are really thick like I was, whacks us with a large white pickup truck.
Bonnie Halford is the Principal of Wild Goose Journeys, a Transitional Coaching and Consulting business in Northern California.