So I was at the dentist’s office, getting my teeth cleaned (isn’t that how all great stories start?), when the dental hygienist told me about something strange that had happened to her. It occurred some years ago, back when her four boys were all teenagers — and acting like it. On a particularly brutal day, when typical teen moodiness, aggression and hijinks seemed at an all-time high, my dental hygienist decided she’d had enough. While driving down Douglas Avenue, she paused in front of Blessed Sacrament Church. I’ll let her tell the rest: “Suddenly, a dove, a white dove, appeared in front of my window, silhouetted by the sun, with light all around it. It flew along next to me for several blocks, and I was overcome with a feeling of peace.”

I was dazzled by this story, not just because I’ve personally driven down that stretch of Douglas Avenue 10,000 times since we moved to this town with nothing appearing in front of me except jay-walking Catholics, but by the almost cinematic perfection of it. A white dove surrounded by dazzling light? Check. A miraculous change of attitude? Double check.

I found myself envious of this woman’s experience, envious of such a dramatic show of God’s love and concern for all of us. Most of us don’t get gifts like this. But we do experience God’s love. We just see it in more subtle ways: In the beauty of nature, in a smile from a stranger. Still, wouldn’t it be nice to get a dramatic dove story — just once in our lives?

Of course, I wouldn’t know a dove from an albino pigeon. And if something — even the Holy Spirit — suddenly appeared in front of my windshield, my reaction would more likely be a shriek than anything else. Maybe that’s why I don’t get dove-moments.

Anyway, the whole thing got me thinking about miracles. Why do they happen? How do they happen? I can’t pretend to know. But I can muse on it. So here goes.

Miracle

You can shout, stomp your feet.
Or hone yourself to holiness,
thin and translucent as a paper saint.
Sometimes it will come.

Other times, it arrives,
like a perfect snowflake
on the collar of your coat,
unbidden.

You will flick it away.
Or you will let it melt on your fingertip,
watching solid turn to liquid,
its own little miracle,
and you will know:
Sometimes for a moment
we are each extraordinary.

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