I was in Southern France in the Spring of 2010, trying to get from church in Nice to my little apartment in Antibes via bus, tram and train.
The local missionaries had given me very specific directions, insisting enthusiastically that the tram connection between bus and train was easy and close, but I realized too late that I’d been on the bus too long and was getting too far away from trams or anything else familiar.
My fellow travelers on the bus didn’t understand my French (an even greater embarrassment than being lost) but when I said in English that I was trying to find the train station, everyone within earshot was alarmed for me.
The woman closest to me yelled at the bus driver to open the door right then and there, even though we weren’t at an official bus stop.
Then she frantically pointed toward the vast bay, la Baie des Anges, assuring me that once I reached it I would get my bearings and be able to find my way back to the station.
It was a long way to the bay. And I had my Sunday shoes on. And it was getting late in the day. And it was raining.
But I wasn’t about to get on another bus.
So I walked, hurrying toward the familiar promenade that I’d explored many times before, splashing through puddles, darting across streets, anxious to reach my destination.
Once at the bay, I spotted the hotel that marked the route to the train station and scurried toward it.
And then I stopped.
I had an umbrella after all.
I was in Southern France. On the French Riviera, to be precise.
I was walking along the Mediterranean and I once again knew where I was and where I needed to go and there would be lots of trains before the day ended and there was so much to see and feel, and so there was really no need to hurry.
Walking more slowly now, everything took shape. No longer just puddles, but interesting people and charming buildings, dramatic clouds and raucous waves. I saw more, felt more, smiled more, enjoyed more. My situation hadn’t changed. My reaction to it did.
Some years ago, at an outdoor book fair held on an unseasonably cold and windy day, I saw a little girl sitting on her dad’s shoulders with her face to the wind. The rest of us were hunkered down in our coats and hats and complaints.
She turned her face toward the wind with a look that said “delight.”
The situation we found ourselves in wasn’t different. The way we faced it was.
We are all too often lost and alone, cold or embarrassed.
We can hurry to a safe place, or we can turn our face toward the wind and delight.