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One Step at a Time

Unity of Birmingham Guest Writer Series:

By Jane Phillips

“Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset.” St. Francis de Sales

My husband and I had moved from New York City to Durham, NC, where he was a 3rd year resident at Duke. We had a ten-week-old baby and had spent our last dime on a moving van and airline tickets to get us home. It was only my mother-in-law’s abundant garden that kept us from starving to death that summer of 1977. And it was hot, so hot! We rented a house on the outskirts of town with no central air conditioning. I was trying to nurse the baby, and those of you who’ve had that privilege know that when the baby is nursing, your body temperature goes sky high. I sweated enough that summer to service an aquarium full of sharks. Sometimes, I took the baby to an air-conditioned mall just to cool down for an hour or so.

Another thing about being a young mother who’d always had a job was the degree to which I missed adult company and the conversation and comradery of the workplace. My vocabulary had been reduced to one-syllable words, which made me restless and edgy. So, when I got a call from an old friend asking if I could do some consulting work for their company, I jumped at the chance. Nearby, I found a Granny-Woman who kept little kids in her home and signed up for one day a week.

The day I was to go to Chapel Hill to meet the program’s director and get the assignment, I was efficiency itself. I jumped out of bed, bathed, dressed, got the baby dressed and fed and headed out to the sitter’s home. She lived in a farmhouse on a two-lane road, ditches on both sides, at the end of a long, red-dirt driveway. I was in a hurry to get to the meeting, and impatient that there was a bearded man in front of me dropping off his little boy. He spoke in a deep, slow, southern drawl and looked a little like The Hulk in bib-overalls. My brain started chalking up judgments right, left and center. Finally, I handed the baby over and bolted out the door. As I was speed-backing out of the driveway, I saw him getting into an old, muddy pickup truck with hay bales in the back. Next thing I knew, the back-end of my car was in the ditch, the front pointed toward heaven. I was hanging there pounding the steering wheel and crying, when the man in overalls tapped on the window.

“Ma’am, put your car in first gear and when I tell you to, slowly pull forward.”

To my astonishment, he jumped into the ditch, grabbed the back bumper, and lifted my car up with his bare hands. “Go slow now, Ma’am,” he called to me. I put the car in first and slowly pulled forward until the back tires were safely on the road. He came to the driver’s window and leaned down to look me in the eye. “It don’t never pay to get in a hurry, Ma’am,” he said, wagging his head. “You take it easy, now.”

I never saw him again. Never even knew his name. But forty-seven years later, I can still see his brown eyes, and hear his words.

That day, he was an “angel unaware” who taught me a life lesson that I will never forget. 

Don’t judge.

Take one step at a time, one day at a time.

Enjoy the process, and don’t let impatience spoil it for you.

Life is simply too short.

Savor the moments.

In the Spirit,


Jane Philips is a retired Special Education teacher, Licensed Professional Counselor, and Licensed Massage Therapist. She has also lead Spirituality Groups, Wisdom Circles, drumming circles, and she wrote a daily blog for twelve years called Spiritually Speaking.

Jane is currently working on a memoir titled, Old Crazy Town. She is a fifth-generation quilter.

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