Caroline sat on the floor, tears streaming down her face, feeling as if she were coming apart at the seams. Everything was going wrong in her life. The promotion that everyone thought was hers had been given to an outsider. Her boyfriend had ended their relationship.
Staring at the picture in a magazine of a zebra dismantling from back to front, she thought that was exactly how she felt. She did not believe that the zebra was as calm as it looked as the unraveling moved ever closer to its head, which would mean the end of it!
She understood the zebra somewhat. She, too, always presented a facade of calm assurance to everyone, a performance that she did not have the strength to keep up when alone in her house.
She even believed that she was perfectly fine with no help from anyone. Yet, she knew that the zebra was hoping for someone or something to come along and save it, because that was exactly what she was feeling.
As she continued to stare at the zebra, she felt such sorrow that she could do nothing to help it. She wasn’t hopeful that anyone would come along and deliver her, either. Feeling such a sense of failure at not being able to help herself or that poor animal, she simply sat and let the tears flow.
Then, after a couple of hours, she remembered something that her grandmother had told her. Grammy had found her hiding in the darkness of her bedroom, afraid to go outside and play with the other kids.
Grammy had said, “Caroline, it is a mystery how we come into the world alone and bring nothing with us, and we leave this world without taking anything with us. But the whole time we are on the earth, we need the support and loving touch of other human beings to help us to survive the time of the dash.”
Caroline had asked Grammy, “What do you mean by ‘the time of the dash?'” Taking Caroline by the hand, Grammy had led her to the cemetery behind the church. There she showed Caroline how each gravestone read a date of birth, a dash, and a date of death. Then, Caroline understood that the dash meant all the days of your life.
As they had walked back home, Caroline had asked Grammy, “How do you make friends who won’t hurt your feelings or make you feel stupid when you make a mistake?” Grammy had answered, “Child, it is not the easiest thing to do. Just be yourself, and the people who accept you in your low times, will be the ones you can always call on when life is coming apart around you. They are the ones who keep you in their prayers, without you even asking.”
Remembering her grandmother’s words, Caroline got up off of the floor and went into her bedroom. She dug deep into her junk drawer until she found the little black book with the telephone numbers of people who were once important to her.
She found the number she needed. Her friend Judy had said every time she saw her in church or on the street, “Caroline, please call me if you need anything.” Putting her pride aside, Caroline dialed the number.
When Judy answered the phone, Caroline started crying, and feeling somewhat foolish, she related all that was happening in her life. She told Judy that she felt like her life was dismantling before her and that she could do nothing to stop it before her life ended.
Judy just listened, as good friends do, and when Caroline finally quieted, Judy said, “I am on my way. You are not alone!” As she waited for her friend to show up, Caroline picked up the magazine and looked at the picture of the zebra.
She looked twice, and then she started screaming. The zebra was fully back to normal, and seemed to be smiling at her!
Was it just her imagination projecting what she felt onto the page, or had a divine presence intervened to get her the help she needed? Grammy would call it just another mystery!