Right out of high school, I was awarded a full-scholarship to an innovative and emerging music school in the Pacific Northwest. Hours of lessons, personal tutoring in music theory, and inspiration from my music teachers all paid off. I was simply stunned to learn about earning a scholarship. The last couple years of high school were not easy after losing dad to cancer and the financial shock that resulted. Our family of six, with two young adults, one teen, and two small children all suddenly were under the care of a single parent. We were a family of seven.
I regretfully pushed God away my last year of high school. With my dad’s death, the marriages of friends falling apart, and the slimy politics at church ending my youth pastor’s job all added up. Yes, I was jaded. So, going to music school seemed like an amazing opportunity. If anything, I could escape the painful and confusing surroundings. And, I could live a dream of being a professional musician. But, I was surely unready to be on my own at barely 18 years old.
The short story is that I was the after-hours school janitor, getting high grades, and crushed by the intense competition that sometimes got more personal than middle school girls get when spreading rumors. From a conservative Christian home in a humble East San Jose neighborhood I ended up in a depressed part of town in Spokane, Washington. The boarding house was surely not up to code, and the landlord was a lady who struggled to get by while raising a teen girl on her own.
Money was tight. I copied other student’s musical projects for change. Help was soon on its way in the form of a loan from a former teacher. It would keep me going the rest of the school year. But, a stalled escrow account kept the check from coming in the mail. I checked the mail often, for one other important reason. My budding romance with a young lady materialized on handwritten letters back and forth. Yes, that is a personal miracle, but not the one I’m writing about today.
Weeks went by and I was pretty hungry and out of work, out of money, and my music gear was now in my land lady’s closet as collateral. “One more week, I think I can get the rest of rent,” I would say. Apparently, I looked like her ex-husband who happened to be a musician, or so she often would say. Providence allowed that fact to keep a roof over my head. But, late at night as the school janitor I would steal candy from a couple desks to take edge off the hunger. I think one of the professors knew, since she filled it back so quickly.
The boarding home I lived in hosted a traveling businessman, a recently incarcerated guy, a Vietnam vet who said he had to hunt to kill things to keep the shakes down, and the hostess and her teen daughter. The old Victorian was on a corner, noisy all night, and furnished a shared bath and kitchen. When I had food, I hid it in my underwear drawer. My colorful roomies stole occasionally. I was far from family, hungry for many days, and emotionally defeated.
I asked myself, “Where was God in all of this?” The days kept coming and going and that check was still late. One day, I actually decided out of my desperation to pray a simple prayer with just a bit of honest faith. “God, I know you can do anything. I’m pretty hungry. If I had five dollars right now I could get enough to eat for the next couple days. Please.” Then the mail came.
My room in the boarding house was near the front door where the mail slot was. I heard the thump and clank from the spring slapping back the mail door. As if in one swoop, I opened the door, lifted from the floor a letter addressed to me from my grandmother, and opened it. Before I could actually read anything from her curly cursive writing, a five dollar bill slipped out of the note. Yes, sometimes miracles come in the mail.