Learning a Lesson… Through Almonds
I woke up shivering the morning of Thanksgiving Day 1969. I’d pulled a canvas tarp over me while laying on a hay bail in a barn just off the road I was hitchhiking on, north of Sacramento going north to Oregon. Freeway 5 was closed for repairs so I found myself on some country road in the middle of no where. I couldn’t sleep with all those roosters crowing in my ear so I quietly sneaked back to the road with my friend Tom. We saw the sun come up to another clear crisp chilly California sunny day. The road was completely deserted of cars for a long time until a man in a white pick up finally came by and graciously pulled over to pick us up. He headed north to the freeway and let us off at the first off ramp, again in the middle of no where.
We stood there on the side of the freeway for a long time watching the sun slowly rise in the sky and feeling our tongues slowly swell with thirst and hunger. Why was I doing this?
It must’ve been noon with the sun high and the air hot and dry. I thought, “I must be out of God’s will. Nobody has come down this road to pick us up.” I said, “Why don’t we test God to see what His will is. You stand on one side of the road and I’ll stand on the other. The one who gets the first ride, that’s the way we’re suppose to go.”
But then my heart smote me. I hadn’t come this far to go back. I knew it was for God that I’d come this far. How could I be so unresolute? I wasn’t anywhere near dead yet. I sure was in pain though, physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual pain.
Then I said, “Why don’t we go over to that almond grove and see if we can get something to eat?” Tom agreed. So we jumped the fences and started going from tree to tree. Not one almond! I saw another grove on the other side of the drainage ditch and said, “Let’s try over there.” I found one hanging on a tree and another on the ground, but nothing else. So we gave up.
We jumped the fences back to the road and stood there quiet, thinking, praying. No traffic. I thought about all the early settlers, our forefathers who had walked into this land a hundred years ago. I thought about the early saints and Israelites who’d persevered though their wildernesses. Finally it came to me I shouldn’t just be dependent on some driver who might pass by. If God wants me to go to Oregon I could walk just like all those who’ve paved this road before me. So I said to Tom, “Let’s walk to a better place to hitchhike.” I could see a long way. I didn’t see a better place to hitchhike. But any place was better than here.
So we started walking through what felt like the Sahara desert. The sun baking down on our skin, the dry wind, the thirst, and the breeze of the cars going by. I didn’t even turn to the traffic any more, I just put out my left arm, thumb up.
I was looking down at the gravel and sand I was walking on just putting one foot in front of the other. Then I saw a pebble that looked strangely different than the others and stopped to look at it. Tom caught up and said, “What are you looking at?” I bent down and picked up an almond just laying there along the side of the road.
We joked and rejoiced and said grace and very carefully divided it up savoring every morsel. Then we started stepping down the road again. Again and again we stopped and stooped to pick up more almonds until we started putting them in our pockets.
Then a white station wagon pulled over in front of us and we ran up to it. The couple inside offered us a ride and said to get in the back seat. When we got in we saw the floor covered with almonds! They were almond growers who had just harvested. They said, “Help yourself.”
They gave us a ride to a perfect place to hitchhike. We’d hardly got out of the car before someone else stopped and gave us a ride all the way to the front door of the commune we were going to in central Oregon, 10 miles off the freeway. We ate Thanksgiving dinner with them and slept under warm blankets that night.
Just before I woke up the next morning I heard a voice asking me, “Where were the almonds?” I said, “Lord, not on the trees, but on the road.” Then was opened to me even further the scripture in Matthew 6:31 – 33, “… Do not be anxious then, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘With what shall we clothe ourselves?’. For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. …”