I've asked myself that question thousands of times through the years.
You see, all of the answers I need in life always come through people. Everyday people I meet along the way.
All the truly important things in life I've learned the hard way. God knows I'm a blockhead sometimes, and blockheads need some serious shaking up in order to guide them, give them direction or simply let them know when to get out of the way.
I've learned that God sends people to me. Some as a friendly reminder that there are beautiful people who, like flowers along the road way, make the journey easier to travel.
But many unknowingly have a message for me, a story to tell, directions or answers to my prayers. So you'll have to believe me when I tell you this, every time I meet someone I say to myself, "Are you the one?"
Expecting that at any moment anyone can be God's messenger, I try desperately to pay special attention to who they are and what they have to say. No, they don't step in front of me and announce "God has sent me. He told me you are a blockhead and I need to make sure you understand what He wants you to do next!"
I wish it were that easy.
Sometimes people step in and out of my life like on a ride in an elevator or standing in line to buy a cheeseburger. Their smile, frown, comment, or actions often times trigger a story, or confirm I'm on the right path.
Sometimes the most important messages come from the most unlikely sources. Like today.
I was speaking to a wonderful couple who were sharing their own experiences with hospice. The woman spoke about how peaceful her brother's death was and told me that she missed him very much. He had passed away less than two years ago.
"He was a tough man, but I would yell at him and he'd listen. I miss yelling at him," she said.
"I hope that when I'm gone someone will miss me. I think that is the greatest accomplishment in life. To have such an impact on others that, upon your passing, they would feel the emptiness," I said.
Then, I heard someone say, "You used to be the host on PBS television weren't you?"
"Yes, I was," I replied.
"Well, I miss you! You see you're not there now and someone misses you. You don't have to die to be missed," he said.
"Are you the one?" I thought.
But I know better. This may very well be the one to deliver an important message to me today. I've been anxiously waiting for one.
He had the warmest smile hidden slightly by his aged, wrinkled face. He told me how much he had enjoyed watching me on television. I wasn't listening to what he said. I am uncomfortable with praise. But his eyes spoke volumes to me.
"Do you have a minute?" he asked.
Believing he was about to say something of utmost importance to me I replied, "I have all the time you need, my friend!"
He then reached in one of the two large shopping bags he was carrying. Pulling out a black binder, he went on to show me a plan he developed for the "future growth of our downtown." His work was clear and concise. The ideas he had made perfect sense. His handwriting was neat and legible.
Then it hit me. He could have been God Himself standing there with a message to save the world, but because he looked like the least significant, most unlikely source to deliver anything of value, no one would ever pay attention to him.
He was intelligent, bright, organized... but old and poor. If anyone spoke with him at all, it would most likely be out of pity, missing anything of importance he had to say.
They would humor him. They would ignore him.
They would pass him by, perhaps even avoid him all together. In doing so they would miss an incredible opportunity to learn something important.
The message was -- "the messenger!"