Mysteries of life

A bracelet bought on a Chicago sidewalk raises questions about human interactions.

With the clever misdirection of a seasoned magician, a small woman made a tiny beaded bracelet appear on my wrist.

Below the towering skyline of Chicago, I am speaking with a woman a few inches south of 5 feet tall. Golden Asian calligraphy covered the surface of her red and gold silk jacket. Her somber face revealed a lifetime of scars, each a story I’d love to hear.

She speaks softly, nodding repeatedly. Her broken words reveal she is most likely a long way from her birthplace. Or, maybe not.

I look down at my wrist, now encircled by 22 red wooden beads.

The woman gently turns my wrist, my palm now open to the sky. She places a small golden foil card in the center. With a Buddha-like image on one side, the reverse offers me the blessings of a lifetime of peace.

The woman continues to nod and opens a spiral notebook with small print. The bracelet and card are a gift, but a donation will help rebuild a temple in Southeast Asia. The notebook shows a black and white photo of what, to my eyes, appears to be a temple in great distress.

I reach into my pocket and pull out a few bills. The woman invites me to add my name to the list of people who’ve done the same before me.

And with the same sense of invisibility she arrived, she nods, takes three steps backwards, and fades back into the crowd of busy tourists.

Looking down at the bracelet and card, two pathways become apparent — each offering contrasting emotions and outcomes. First, I can resent the fact I handed a few dollars to a woman who is working a crowd, handing out costume trinkets for dollars. The other pathway is to absorb the moment and default to the wisdom of the universe and knowing there is a chance — however slight — my actions may pave the way for good things to come my direction.

The red bracelet probably carries a value of less than $1 — the foil card most likely a few pennies. But, I wonder, what is the value of the human experience of meeting the woman? And like the ever so brief belief we put in stage magicians, what about the similar feeling washing across me while she and I interacted?

Much like a child, I’m increasingly open to enjoying the mysteries of life. The rational side of me knows most of the stories I was told as a child were nothing but well-meaning tales designed to inspire and shape my actions. And, for the most part, I was especially careful in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

So, if I could then, why not now? What is the harm in letting a bit of harmless mystery and serendipity into my life? After all, I now know I have a lifetime of joy and peace on my side — and the card to prove it.

Leonard Woolsey: 409-683-5207;

President & Publisher

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