Crystal and Apophenia

I have a new friend I want to tell you about. Her name is Crystal. Actually, it could be Krystal, Kristal, Cristal, or any of a number of spellings. I’m not really sure. I should have looked at her name tag to discover the correct spelling, but I was too mesmerized by her. So, we’re going to go with the traditional Crystal until I know otherwise.

Crystal has great big eyes and a skinny size 00 body. No, I did not ask her what size jeans she wears, but trust me when I say she is teeny! She has beautiful dark hair and a smile that positively makes her face glow. I first met her when her sweet little voice came over the speaker, “Welcome to Sonic. This is Crystal. Make I take your order?” I could literally hear the smile in her voice. Precious!
In just a few short minutes, Crystal came bebopping (or would that be car-hopping?) out to my car with a large Coke Zero and sausage breakfast burrito on her tray. Yep, I was completely right. She was wearing the sweetest smile that reached all the way up to her eyes. It was legitimate, and given that it was not even 6:30am, I was beyond impressed.
This scene has repeated itself more times than I’m going to tell you, lest you report me to Sonic-aholics for some 12-step program to cure me of my addiction. It won’t work, because I don’t have the desire to be free from this addiction just yet. That will only happen if my pant size increases. Anyway, let’s just suffice it to say that I see Crystal often. So often, in fact, that she greeted me last Tuesday with one of her trademark beautiful smiles and said, “Hi! You’re running late this morning.” Probably not a good sign, but it melted my heart.
So yesterday when I stopped by to see Crystal (and yes, pick up my usual), I couldn’t resist asking her a few questions:
T: Aren’t you freezing? You have no meat on your bones whatsoever.
C: (with a bashful smile) Yes! I’ve always been super skinny except when I had my boys, so I’m always cold.
T: I don’t know how you are always smiling this early in the morning. You always make my day.
C: I’m so glad I have this job, and you’re always so nice.
T: Did you grow up around here?
C: Yes, I graduated from Belton High School, and I live in Temple.
T: You said you have boys. I have two. How many do you have?
C: (with a beaming smile) I have two, too!
T: How old are they?
C: One just turned four, and the other one will be two next week.
T: Oh my goodness! How do you manage being here so early?
C: My mom watches the boys so I can work the early shift and be home to play with them in the afternoons.
Ok. I confess. I don’t remember anything else she said. My mind was on TILT – complete overload. Here was this precious, tee-niny GIRL! Mother of two toddlers! Working at 5:30am every day! Wearing the biggest smile . . . every single time I see her!
After Crystal hurried back in from the cold, I couldn’t even back my car out without first offering a prayer for her – a prayer of thanksgiving for the way she blesses me every morning and for the powerful lesson she just taught me about grace and gratitude and a prayer of protection for her and those precious little boys of hers. I kept the radio off on the rest of the drive to Austin and just let my thoughts swirl and intermingle amidst continued prayer and conversation with God.
You know, I think we miss seeing … and valuing … and helping the Crystals in this world because we don’t let our hearts linger on them. Sometimes because it’s just too hard. Sometimes because we don’t like guilt. Sometimes because we feel powerless to help. Sometimes because we’re selfish. Sometimes because we’re just too preoccupied with our own circumstances. Sometimes because we’re occupied with the mundane and unimportant.
Today is 11-11-11. Numerologists tell us that at 11:11, it will be the perfect palindrome – an event which can only happen on one day every 100 years. There has been great preoccupation about the significance of the date. It’s been highly touted in the news and on the Internet. When I googled 11-11-11, I got 9,430,000,000 results. Read that number carefully. NINE BILLION! MSNBC reported that over 25,000 couples planned to get married today. Some fear this is the Mayan apocalypse, whatever that is. Others say something supernatural will happen today, and they rely on 11-11-1911 as an example. If you don’t know what happened that day, I didn’t either, but I now know that was the Great Blue Norther, a cold snap which blanketed the US causing blizzards, tornadoes, and record drops in temperature.
Really? REALLY? People seriously have time to contemplate stuff like this?
Psychologists attribute this fascination to apophenia. Yep, another term I’d never heard, but I recognize that Latin suffix and it’s relationship to words like arachnophobia and schizophrenia. Apophenia is the urge humans have to find patterns in seemingly random data. It’s the reason we see certain shapes in the clouds or find faces in the way our cream swirls in our coffee cups. It’s the reason somebody paid $28,000 on eBay for a piece of toast that supposedly had the face of the Virgin Mary. It’s the psychology gamblers use, and it can even be a symptom of mental illness like the movie A Beautiful Mind.
I’m back to my earlier thought:
Really? REALLY? REALLY????
I don’t believe there is any significance to 11-11-11 at all except one.
You and I have been given another day. Another chance. Another opportunity. Another gift.
Will we use it on the mundane? Will we squander it selfishly?
Or we will use it to be a blessing just like Crystal does?
Trust me when I say you don’t have to look far to find an opportunity to love on others and share God’s grace and goodness. You might find someone who is a member of your very own family, maybe even living under your own roof. You might find a complete stranger at the grocery store. You might have a long-time friend you’ve neglected. You might have someone who deserves your past-due thanks.
Let’s make 11-11-11 special NOT because it’s some once-in-a-100-years palindrome, but because we took the opportunity to shine the light on just how big our God really is.
Love God.
Serve others.
“I glorified you on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.”John 17:4 NET

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