Miracle at Chester, Iowa

The Holy Spirit nudged.

“You should call,” was its silent suggestion.

After a year of pandemic living, some of us were ready to go shopping in an actual mall instead of just contenting ourselves with online ordering. A trip was planned to Rochester, Minnesota—a solid 75-minute drive from our homes but also one of the larger retail centers nearest to us.

Everyone knows that the best part of a day like that is the windshield time. For some reason, being in a moving vehicle makes sharing our stories all the more fluid and effortless—like the landscape that breezes past us. Sometimes familiar, and sometimes we catch a glimmer of something new.

We were looking forward to that date circled on the calendar. And then we wanted more.

The shopping trip morphed into the idea of stopping at an establishment on the way back and meeting up with some favorite cousins from the area—cousins we hadn’t seen for a while. With more people involved, it was becoming a celebration. Other family members, not interested in shopping, were hungry for some social time and decided to meet us as well.    

It was all set. On a Monday. Late afternoon, early evening. At Laddy’s Bar and Grill in Chester, Iowa. The phone calls were made, and everyone was notified. All that was left was the waiting.

And that’s when the voice that abides within us and guides us toward goodness, the one I call the Spirit, stepped in.

“Several need this time of fellowship. What if Laddy’s isn’t open on a Monday?”

I didn’t listen, at first. I knew they were open on Mondays in the past.

Still.

“You should call.”

That was the first miracle. That the phone call was placed.

And found out that—no, they’re not open on Mondays anymore. Crushing news when there were only a few days left to make something else work.

Then the second miracle happened. The bartender asked, “Why? Do you have something special planned for the night? I could ask the owner if he’d open for you.”

Who does that?

If closed on Mondays, most businesses will simply say that they’re closed on Mondays. And goodbye.

She surprised me.

“Well,” I stammered, “not really. Not something special. Just about a dozen of us were thinking of meeting there for drinks and food.”

She took my phone number and said the owner would call me when the grill quieted down.

Not feeling too good about my chances with Laddy’s, I tried several area establishments. All closed on Mondays. And goodbye.

That’s when Laddy’s called, and the third miracle took place. “Sure, I can come in and open for you that night.”

Unbelievable.

It’s been a year of loss. The loss of life and livelihoods from a pandemic, the loss of freedoms because of isolation and restrictions, the loss of a sense of security due to spiking violence in our cities, and the loss of finding common ground with others because of deep political divides.

And then we experience a moment—even a little one—when our faith in humanity is restored.

It’s been a trying year for all of us, but we found goodness in Chester, Iowa that night. Never underestimate the healing power of simple, human connection.    

Laddy’s Bar and Grill is a bit too far away for me to become a regular. But it will be my new, favorite stop on the way home from Rochester.

No further nudging needed.

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