It was an amazing sight. Something we had never seen before. An immense white cloud formed in the eastern sky Wednesday as dusk settled over our home. We pulled our lawn chairs onto the driveway to drink in this beautiful phenomenon of nature.
It wasn't the cloud itself, but what was going on inside its puffy interior. An amazing light show was playing out before us as streaks and bolts of lightning burst from the cloud. It was unusual because the constant lightning was not the garden variety cloud-to-ground type. Rather it streaked and jumped sideways in brilliant orange and red and yellow hues. We heard no thunder nor did any rain fall from this cloud. We watched in awe at this rare glimpse at nature at its best until darkness took it from us.
The heavenly light show was a welcome relief from the rain and flooding of this week. And more than that, the cloud was a gift. Something unexpected but very much welcomed to cap off the day.
Then it made me think about the other "gifts" I had received in that one day. The first one came in the form of a thank-you card in the mail from someone who appreciated a recent column. In this business, we most often hear from those who firmly disagree with us. So when nice words are directed our way, we are grateful for the gift of thoughtfulness.
An unusual gift presented itself as a small, white business-sized card shoved into my hand by the homeless man positioned at the bottom of the interstate ramp in Woodsdale. The card read "A Ticket to Heaven." The cost of the ticket was any donation one wished to provide to this self-proclaimed angel. I never turn down assistance toward a better afterlife.
Sometimes we fail to recognize the gifts we are given. Such as when I found a certain ring I had misplaced after searching for days. It was basically right under my nose, perched on the praying hands of the Blessed Virgin statue on the kitchen windowsill. Kind of humbled me when I realized who was safeguarding the ring for me. I vowed to appreciate her thoughtfulness and keep the ring on my finger.
This week we wished fellow worker Art Limann good luck in his retirement after 43 years with the newspapers. While reminiscing with Art about the many people he has met, places he visited and photographs he took, we had some good laughs and tears. He made me realize that it's the people around us who enrich our lives through their stories. Their willingness to let us into their lives so that we might share their stories with our readers is a gift. And the ability to tap out their stories on a computer screen is gift, too.
Readers often ask me how I do I come up with ideas to write in this space each week. And I tell them, "It's a God-given gift, plain and simple." A gift and responsibility I do not take lightly or for granted. I urge you to use your gifts that you, too, might receive a ticket to heaven.
Heather Ziegler can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.