Our agency’s offices used to be on Highland Avenue in Birmingham’s 5 Points South area. One of the things I really enjoyed was walking to lunch. There were so many cool places nearby and you could be back in an hour even if you walked.
One day in 2006 I decided to walk to Al’s Mediterranean Grill near the UAB campus. Every other month or so I would treat myself to their incredible cheeseburger. So that day, I set off on foot down Highland Avenue.
Within the next hour, three things happened that would change the way I viewed my place in the world.
The first happened less than 5 minutes after starting my walk down the street. Waiting for a stop signal at 20th Street South, a young man and his female companion approached me. The young man asked me where to catch the bus that could take them to another particular part of town. I simply pointed across the street to the bus stop, and something compelled me to give them a dollar for some fare. The young woman who was with the young man started crying. Oh well, I thought. I moved on to Al’s.
The second thing happened as I had just finished Al’s amazing cheeseburger, complete with fries and a 50/50 mix of strawberry soda and cola. I was putting my tray away when a businessman stopped and asked me how to get to the Lakeview district. “Oh that’s simple,” I said. “You just go down this street two blocks and you’ll be on University. Go right and stay straight until you get past the Red Mountain Expressway and St. Vincent’s Hospital, and you’ll be in Lakeview.”
The third thing happened walking back to the office. A middle-aged man in a car rolled down his window and asked me “can you tell me where Ramsay High School is, please?” I smiled and pointed right above his head. “It’s at the very top of this hill next to this street. Just turn the corner.” The man was sincerely appreciative and drove off.
As I turned to head back toward Highland Avenue, a literal vision came to me. It was like God showing me a satellite view of Birmingham, with every person I had spoken to as a place on that map. “You were put here to help people find their way” was the distinct message that came to me. All of a sudden, all the memories of teaching Sunday School over the years, the recollections of some of the greatest businesspeople in the country asking my advice on matters, all of it came into focus.
I still believe that’s my purpose on the Earth. To help people get where they need to go.
There’s a little book I wrote called No Ordinary Joe. It’s there in case you want to hear how you can overcome adversity in your life and reach your destination.
Please let me know if you need my help in getting to where you need to go.