“Surprise, surprise, surprise,” Gomer Pyle would say in his inimitable southern accent. This character played by Jim Nabors first appeared in The Andy Griffith Show, a comedy series from my childhood. Pyle, a childlike (and somewhat childish) character, was perpetually surprised by the most ordinary things of life that most of us take for granted.
Once I was walking along a busy thoroughfare in Guatemala City. I happened across an obviously poor woman walking slowly while carrying an infant in her arms. Since my gait was faster than hers, I soon overtook her. After I passed her, I discovered a fairly large wad of bills lying on the sidewalk. I looked all around and couldn’t see anyone to whom they might have belonged so I scooped them up. Without thinking, I turned around and handed the wad of bills to the poor woman behind me. I had no idea how much money was in the wad, nor how it found its way onto the sidewalk.
“Who knows where this came from,” I said as I handed her the wad. I was thinking maybe it was some dirty money hastily thrown out of a car window from a drug deal gone awry. Without the slightest hesitation she replied, “From God.” Her day, maybe her year, was made by a surprise from God.
As I reflected on this little incident, I learned several lessons. First, my worldview is mostly materialistic. My assumption about where the money came from shows that I look to logical explanations for miraculous events. I think that I do not need to depend on God to provide my sustenance—I’ve got a good job and have most of my needs met. In contrast, the poor woman’s response showed beyond a doubt that she depended on God to provide for her needs. Who is to say whether the wad of bills came from a passing car window or straight from heaven?
Secondly, there are probably many little surprises that God has in store for us if we only allow ourselves to be aware of them. Sometimes we are so stuck in our routines and schedules that we do not acknowledge God’s little surprises that await us at every moment. Or we write them off as little coincidences or have some other rational explanation for them. Or we see them as annoying interruptions of our routines.
The following are little surprises in my life from yesterday. The little girl that waved and smiled at me in the coffee shop. The motorcyclist who asked if I was a professor in the coffee shop and proceeded to tell me interesting stories of his adventures. The student who wrote to me about his job change and how important one class he had with me was for him. The picture of Pedro that I was searching for and the joy radiated in his face after I found it. The dead battery on my lawn mower that made me meet a hulking, friendly mechanic who made me laugh. My wife’s thank you for doing some household chores that surprised her. The “like” I received for a birthday greeting on Facebook.
It is interesting that as I started to write about those little surprises, I kept being reminded of more. I could have continued for several more paragraphs, and that was only from yesterday. Like finding a wad of bills, these little surprises can make us aware of God’s presence and working in our lives. How much better our lives would be if we regularly reflected with gratitude on the littlest and seemingly insignificant surprises of each ordinary day.
“Surprise, surprise, surprise.” We think Gomer Pyle’s childlike wonder shows his naiveté and his ignorance. Instead, it shows his gratefulness for every little event that comes along. We should do the same.