With the mounting bills, work and stress, it was the reminder he needed from God
- Posted on Feb 26, 2019
Twenty miles to go to reach Marcy, New York. I was right on schedule to deliver the load I was carrying for Walmart. Once I dropped it off I had another load lined up for the return drive to South Carolina. I checked my rearview mirror and speedometer. This will really help pay the bills, I thought. Bills were just about all I had on my mind these days.
My troubles really started with Hurricane Florence in September 2018. When the governor ordered a mandatory evacuation of all coastal areas, I planned to drive out of town with my mother and sister. But the company I worked for insisted I take my assigned tractor trailer to safety.
“We’ll follow you in the car,” my sister, Samantha, assured me. But it made the whole trip more stressful, not wanting to lose them in the traffic heading out of town. As we got on the highway, I said a special prayer to Mother Mary: “Please send angels to protect us and watch over our house while we’re gone.”
I hoped to be back home and at work in a few days. But Hurricane Florence decided to stay for a while. We were stuck in a hotel for a week, with bills piling up. The three of us shared a mobile home, which was very vulnerable to hurricanes. Finally the governor gave the okay to go home. “We’ll probably be without electricity and water for a while when we get back,” Samantha said.
“I just hope it’s not worse than that,” I said as we packed up to leave. There was a chance our mobile home had not withstood the hurricane-force winds. I’d missed a week of work, had hotel bills to pay and wouldn’t have much money for house repairs. I loaded our stuff. What if we found we’d lost everything else? “Mother Mary,” I prayed once again, “please send angels to watch over our home.”
The whole drive home I dreaded what could be waiting. But when we pulled into the lot, our home was safe and sound. Even the electricity worked. I tried the faucet. Water! Thank you, God, I thought. “Angels were truly watching over us,” my mother said.
I had no time to appreciate the angels’ protection before the manager of my fleet called me back onto the road. I hung up the phone. “I wish I could be home for a while—help you all settle back in,” I told Samantha.
“Mom and I understand,” she said. “You don’t want to lose your job.”
As far as the company is concerned, the job is all that matters, I thought as I climbed behind the wheel. I worked nonstop for the next few weeks. Whenever I wasn’t driving I was worrying. I’d never felt so much pressure! Maybe the job really was all that mattered. What else did I have to rely on?
One Friday at the end of the month I was booked for a load from Walmart in Chesapeake, Virginia. I drove my trailer to the distribution center and checked over the paperwork. “You’re all set,” the security guard said. “Have a good trip.”
Five hundred miles went by without incident. No traffic jams or much roadwork. Up ahead I saw the turnoff for Marcy. One delivery almost done, it occurred to me. I was already thinking about the next. I’d pick it up in New York and take it back to South Carolina. I drove my delivery into the distribution center and handed the receiving security guard at the warehouse the paperwork. He looked it over. I’ll be back home on Monday, I thought. Deliver my second load. Pay some bills…
“Frank,” the guard said. “This isn’t the right trailer.”
“What? Of course it is. How could it not be?”
I checked the paperwork again. The trailer number didn’t match the one on my load. The security guard opened the door and showed me what I’d just driven nearly 550 miles: Nothing! The trailer was empty!
I was almost dizzy with shock as I initialed the paperwork. Never in my decades as a truck driver had I ever picked up the wrong trailer. I couldn’t imagine the trouble I’d be in for doing it now. I’d wasted time and fuel driving an empty trailer, and the load Walmart needed transported was sitting back in Virginia.
“I looked at the paperwork before I left,” I told my mother over the phone. “The security guard in Virginia did too. We both missed it. I’m so embarrassed.”
“It’s all the stress you’ve been under,” she said. “It’s no wonder you made a mistake.” Mistakes were for other people. I couldn’t afford them.
I called up a friend who was also a truck driver. “What do you think they’ll do?” I said. “I won’t get paid for the job. They’ll put me on probation for sure, maybe even suspension.”
“Look, it’s Saturday. Your fleet manager won’t be back until Monday,” my friend said. “That’ll give you some time to prepare how to tell her the bad news. Drive the load you’ve got back to Virginia. It’ll work out.”
I wanted to believe him, but this seemed like too big a disaster. My boss would see my initials on the paperwork. This mistake was on my head. I would be lucky if I didn’t lose my job. The next two days on the road were the longest of my life. The closer Monday morning came, the worse I felt.
Sunday night I pulled into a truck stop in Ashland, Virginia, and crawled into my sleeping compartment, fearful of the call I would have to make the next morning. As far as the company was concerned, the job was all that mattered.
Early Monday morning I opened the curtain to check the weather. Sunlight flooded my sleeping compartment. Sunlight and something more—a bright, vibrant rainbow. It stretched from the front of my truck to the back. It wasn’t coming through the windshield. It just seemed to start in the middle of the front seat and stretch into the sleeping compartment. I walked back and forth from one end to the other trying to figure out where it was coming from. When I stood up the rainbow was reflected on my face.
For the first time in days, I smiled. A rainbow wasn’t going to help with my boss, but somehow the sight of it made me feel better. It reminded me that there was more to the world than money and stress. I kept my eye on it when I took out my phone to make the call I’d dreaded. The rainbow somehow gave me courage. My call was rerouted to a supervisor. “Hi,” I began. “I have some bad news about the load I delivered to Marcy.”
“The empty trailer?” she said. “I know all about it. Walmart gave us a report.”
“Oh,” I said. At least I didn’t have to tell her myself. “Look, I don’t know how I could have made such a mistake,” I said.
“Everybody makes mistakes, Frank,” she said.
I almost thought I misheard her. Everyone makes mistakes? Expensive mistakes like this one? She didn’t even sound angry!
“Believe me, I understand,” she went on. “You know, another driver had a load to drive to Houston. He wound up driving it to Miami! Yeah, mistakes happen to everybody. He didn’t even realize it until he got there and they rejected it.”
She laughed at the story and I laughed too—with relief. Just having her talk to me like a human being who mattered more than the loss of revenue was like a second rainbow in my truck.
The supervisor didn’t suspend me. She didn’t put me on probation. In fact, she said she would pay me for the job anyway.
The mysterious rainbow stayed in my truck until early afternoon. I never did figure out where it came from. But I suspected it had something to do with those angels watching over me, even in the most stressful times. Reminding me how much I mattered to God, and that I always had him to rely on.
Did you enjoy this story? Subscribe to Angels on Earth magazine.