Nothing happens by coincidence. Every situation we encounter is tailor-made just for us. Every opportunity is a gift that helps us actualize who we truly want to be. When we really really want to accomplish something, God creates those precise circumstances to make that desire come alive. But we have to stretch ourselves and grab the opportunity. If we do, God lets us stretch even further and get farther than we ever dared hope to think we could.
It's like the story in Egypt of Batya, Pharaoh’s daughter. She saw baby Moses in the basket in the Nile, but it was too far for her to reach. She wanted so badly to reach the basket that she stretched out her hand anyway. God made a miracle and her arm became longer and reached the basket.
I recently heard the following true story from Rabbanit Tziona Hillel, the wife of Rabbi Yaakov Hillel of Jerusalem. It demonstrates how much we can accomplish with genuine desire, sincere effort, and a lot of help from Above.
The Yellow and White Taxi
It was after midnight one night, and I happened to hear the news on the radio. There was an announcement that a 5-year-old girl was missing.
Her family had been in Jerusalem and had hailed a taxi on the street to take them home to Elad, a town in central Israel. The hour was late and the rocking motion of the van soon put the family’s five children to sleep. When they reached their destination, the parents carried their children into the house one by one, not wanting to wake them. When they went back to get the last child, a five year old, they discovered to their horror that the van had driven off. Apparently, the driver hadn't seen the small girl sleeping in the back seat and had mistakenly thought the parents had taken everyone out.
The parents panicked. They had hailed the taxi on the street and had no contact information about the driver. They didn't know his name or what company he worked for. Not knowing what to do, they called the police and told them the story. The only description they could give about the vehicle was that it was a yellow and white van.
Soon the police and two large medical emergency organizations were on the case. Announcements were made about the missing girl and the roads were searched for a vehicle that fit the description.
If I heard about what was going on, it meant that I needed to help.
I heard the announcement and shuddered. These things can really turn dangerous. I knew that the authorities were on the case and that the situation was being broadcast on the radio, but I just couldn't shake my head and go back to my routine. I knew that if I heard about what was going on, it meant that I needed to help. Not that the professional, equipped and trained people couldn’t handle things, but every effort counts.
And who knows what will ultimately make the difference.
I grabbed a paper and pen and dialed the number of Bar Ilan Taxis, the company whose number I knew by heart. When the dispatcher answered, I quickly filled him in on the reason for the call and asked if they had any yellow and white vans in their fleet. He told me they didn't, so I pushed him to think if there was any company that did.
"Beit Shemesh Taxis," he answered. "Their vans are yellow and white."
It turns out that he had given me wrong information. Beit Shemesh Taxis are distinctly red and yellow – not yellow and white. But I didn’t know this at the time.
I looked up the number of Beit Shemesh Taxis and dialed. I knew that I had to sound sure of myself so the dispatcher wouldn't just brush off my call.
"Hello," I said. “A 5-year-old girl was left in one of your vans that traveled to Elad this evening. It is critical that we get to this girl before something happens. Please give me the names and numbers of all of your drivers who went to Elad today."
"Are you off your rocker?" the dispatcher answered, mincing no words. "It's the middle of the night."
I again stressed that the matter was very serious and urgent.
"You want me to sit here and list you the names and numbers of 50 drivers?" he asked again, incredulous.
When he saw that I was serious, he began reading off his roster, and I wrote as fast as I could. After about a dozen names, I thanked him and got to work. I called each number. Some didn't answer; some said they hadn't been to Elad; some were certain that the girl wasn't with them. I was getting tired and getting nowhere at the same time, but I knew needed to do all I could to help that poor family. I trusted that God would do the rest.
Finally, I dialed the last name on my list. A man’s voice answered and I quickly began the introduction that so easily rolled off my tongue at this point.
"Hey, I have a neighbor who drives a yellow and white van for a living."
"I didn't drive any family like that to Elad," he said. "Sorry I can't help you." Before he hung up the phone, though, he remembered something. "Hey, I have a neighbor who drives a yellow and white van for a living." He told me there was no way to reach him by phone, because he was certainly sleeping in these wee hours of the morning. But he offered to go outside to his friend's house and check the van.
I gave him my number and asked him to call me if anything happened. It was another stroke of Divine providence that I decided to give him my number. I hadn't given it to anyone else, despite all their assurances that they would keep their eyes peeled for information.
You can guess what happened next. There that little girl was, in a parked van on a dark street, sleeping, oblivious to all the commotion surrounding her disappearance.
Excitedly, he called me to tell me the news and to ask what to do next.
Honestly, I was as stumped as he was. I told him I had a son in Beit Shemesh who could get the girl and bring her home, but first I was going to notify the police to call off the search parties and notify the parents who had been hysterical with worry.
The police told me that they would take over at that point. They retrieved the little girl from the van and returned her home. Incredibly, she continued sleeping throughout the ordeal until she was safely back in bed.
I received a certificate of appreciation from the police and a beautiful framed photo of the little girl with words of thanks from her family. But I also got something much more important that night. I learned the lesson that if someone is in need, and we are truly determined to help, the Almighty makes the impossible possible.
And just as importantly, each of us little people can make a difference.