By Cindy Gore
Anywhere is paradise; it's up to you.
My lungs hurt as I struggled for breath. I had been crying so hard that I hadn't noticed the woman who had entered the clearing with her small dog. I stopped sobbing long enough to mumble something about how refreshing it is to just come out to the clearing and think. Then I walked away before she was able to read the pain on my face.
The source of my pain stood a hundred yards away. Tucked in beside the other motor homes, my RV should have been a source of fun, excitement, and adventure. The park housed what Florida refers to as "the snow birds," people who were escaping the cold of the winters up north. It was mid-December. I looked down the row of trailers lined up in the Florida sun. Many of those sun followers had decked out their motor homes with Christmas lights, statues, and trees covered with seashells and wind chimes.
I gazed at the twelve-inch Christmas tree I had placed in the front window of our motor home. Again, I began to cry. This was not how things were supposed to be. I heaved another sigh, and decided I needed to walk once more around the park. My husband seemed content enough, and I hated to have him see me like this — tears streaming down my face, broken spirit. So I walked. I knew every step. For weeks, I had paced the paths up and down the rows of the motor homes. I knew which one had the birdcage with two loud cockatiels that squawked most of the day. I passed row three that had the cat that liked to lie in the sun in the middle of the small road that led through the park. Going all the way to the front brought me to the office where there was always a group of laughing, smoking, talking people. Their routine was so established; their pace slow, deliberate.
They chose this life. With foresight and planning, they deliberately packed up their belongings and headed for this small park. I couldn't identify with that. I preferred to relate to the ones I called the one-nighters.... people who came in with a car packed full of belongings, pitched a tent, used the showers, did laundry, and the next day they were gone. I used to sit and weave stories in my mind — where they were going, what had brought them to this place. I was convinced that they were gypsies, or homeless people, and honestly, as much as I felt their pain, it made me feel better.
My husband and I had not planned to be "snow birds" or even to be in Florida. Only a couple of months before we were living in a large suburban home outside Charlotte, North Carolina. Life was good. I traveled for my job, often running through airports and texting while I waited to catch a flight for my next assignment. My husband worked full-time in a field he'd been in for years. We spent our weekends driving around the eastern part of the state looking for property to purchase. Our dream was to own a large place where we could settle down, plant gardens, perhaps raise a pony that my granddaughter could come and ride in the summers.
As I passed the park office that morning, I saw the notices for the annual Christmas dinner on the board. A man who looked like Santa asked me if I would be attending the dinner. I mumbled something about not being sure what our plans were. In my mind Christmas was not going to be a happy day. My husband's unemployment check had not arrived. Our food stamps were almost gone, and the money we had borrowed from my daughter was a memory.
I stopped in the office and asked for the mail. Each day there was a moment of hope — maybe some money had come in.
I wondered if anyone could sense my pain and disappointment as I left the office. As I rounded the bend and saw my motor home at the end of the row, I realized I needed to walk one more loop around. Questions swirled through my mind — Why had we gotten ourselves into this mess? How could we both get laid off the same week? And why was everyone else so happy, living in those small metal boxes they call recreational vehicles? I felt as if the place where I laid my head each night was a jail cell. It was a motor home, but we had nowhere to motor to. What used to be a weekend trip of camping and s'mores had turned into a grim daily reminder of things lost.
Over the last month, I'd done more than my share of praying. Having nothing else to do, my husband and I spent our days reading the Bible, praying, and talking about God's promises. He seemed to have a firm grip on his faith, while my daily prayers often turned into sobbing and fear; I called it my crisis of faith.
One foot in front of the other, I made my way toward my home on wheels. As I opened the door, I heard the sounds of music playing, eggs frying. The little lights on the tree twinkled. The cats stretched out on the bed, not having a care in the world. My husband turned, looked and flashed a smile — "Hi, how was your walk?" I thought for a moment. I was in a place that most people spend a lot of time and money to get to, in a motor home that many would love to have. My healthy husband was glad to see me. And the tears stopped. I realized that each day is a choice. We often don't get to choose what happens to us, only how we react to it. My crisis of faith really wasn't a crisis at all — it was a decision. At that moment, I knew that my God had heard my prayer, and reminded me that He is often found in the little things. I reached out and smiled at my husband — "It was good, it's gorgeous out. They are having a potluck at the park clubhouse for Christmas. Do you want to go?"