One of the toughest years of my life was 1983. I was 29 at the time. I was raising my two step daughters, Deedee and Lori, Meranda was 5 yeas old, Andrew was about a year and a half. Savannah was yet to be born. I had been laid off, there was a recession going on and it was tough finding another job. I had no thought of ever getting recalled to McDonnell Douglas. Jeri and I were struggling, trying to make ends meet. She found a job at Montes market, a small mom & pop store around the corner from our house. I would find an occasional job under the table. Somehow we managed to not get evicted.
For about six month that year we had no gas in the house. We had one old hot plate that we used to boil water and one electric fryer. My Landcruiser would have been repossessed but I kept it hidden and out of sight. I also had an old 1959 Ford pickup with a camper shell but no gas money to go anywhere. I had a warrant for my arrest for failure to appear (no registration). So many other things went wrong that year that I could write a small book just on 1983. It was a hard year made even harder because I refused to ask for help. I'm still that way.
Still, one Saturday morning I found myself with few extra bucks and I decided we were going for a drive. We headed out to the beaches in Orange County. Jeri and I, all the kids and our neighbor's daughter Adrienne. We took the pickup with the camper.
We had been driving for a while down Pacific Coast Highway when the truck started acting funny. I pulled into a parking lot at the beach. I don't know what beach it was. Being an L.A. Guy I was in completely unfamiliar territory. As soon as I pulled in the truck stalled. We let the kids out while I tried to figure out what was wrong, which is to say, I opened up the hood and stared at the engine.
I don't mind telling you, I was defeated. I looked around and there was not a building in sight, no gas station, no shops, nothing. So I tell Jeri “You stay with the kids. I'm going to look for a gas station or a phone or something!”
I didn't know which way to go but I went up the road and ended up in a long winding road in a canyon with no end in sight. I was hot and I was tired. Not tired from the day but tired of struggling. Defeated! I had been walking for over an hour when I just stopped. I didn't know if I should keep going or go back or just stand in this spot for the rest of my life. As I was looking down at my feet in defeat I saw this small piece of paper that said in bold print “Don't Quit”! I was flabbergasted!! I picked it up and read it. This is what it said:
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit
Rest if you must, but don't you quit.
Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a fellow turns about
When he might have won had he stuck it out.
Don't give up though the pace seems slow
You may succeed with another blow.
Often the goal is nearer than
It seems to a faint and faltering man;
Often the struggler has given up
Whe he might have captured the victor's cup;
And he learned too late when the night came down,
How close he was to the golden crown.
Success is failure turned inside out
The silver tint in the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It might be near when it seems afar;
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit
It's when things seem worst that you must not quit.
I looked straight up to the sky and I said out loud “God, did you put this here for me? I began to pray and give thanks. My spirit was renewed. My energy was back and I was on my way again. Just around the corner a busy street with stores and more importantly, a gas station. I used the phone at the gas station and called a towing company. One of the guys at the gas station gave me a ride back to the truck.
The tow truck was a flat bed. The driver loaded up the truck and we all piled into the cab of the tow truck. It was hard for me when we pulled up onto our street. My pride made it hard for me. I did not (and still don't) like my mistakes and failures on public display. But it is what it is.
Did God speak to me that day or was it just a coincidence that at the exact moment when I needed to hear them, at the exact spot I decided to stop, the exact words I needed to hear were placed at my feet. I know the answer.
God doesn't call us over or call us on the phone and say “Randy, you got a minute?” No, he talks to us with subtle words and actions. This is how he speaks to us. It was no accident that this piece of paper was put at my feet. When God speaks to us we have choice “I can listen or I can ignore him'.
I have held on to that piece of paper for 33 years. Whenever I felt like I can't take another step in my life I think back to that moment when I saw those words. This is roots of our family motto “We never quit!”