John Alan Turner

Speaker, Author, Mentor, Coach, Facilitator

Joy and Luck and a Tow Truck

There was another trip I took to San Francisco. This was a few years before the one I just described, and I was traveling with my pastor friend, Rick Hazelip, and my Dove-Award-winning musical producer friend, Jeff Sandstrom. We flew into the SFO, rented a car and drove across the Golden Gate Bridge to Santa Rosa. The weather was near perfect. The scenery was more than two eyes could take in. The sights, sounds and tastes were so overwhelming we found ourselves praying on a near-continuous basis: “Thank you, God, for this!”

The one black eye on our trip, however, came early. As we were getting settled in the hotel, I went out to the rental car to retrieve my briefcase so I could check my email. On my way back into the hotel, I was hurrying to catch the elevator. An older gentleman was holding it for me. I reached into my pocket for my room key, and the keys to the rental car slipped out…slid across the floor …toward the elevator… and …(in what seemed like slow motion) down the two-inch gap between the hotel floor and the elevator… down the elevator shaft!

The older gentleman and I both watched the keys, following them with our eyes as they slid across the floor and then down the gap. It was almost as if we were hypnotized by them or stunned into disbelief that such large keys could fit into such a tiny space. After they fell and were gone from sight, he looked up at me and said, “That’s the most unluckiest thing I ever saw.”

Fitting words.

I went straight to the front desk and was told that it’s against the law for anyone other than the “elevator people” to go down there and there’s no way they’re coming out for this. I did look down the gap with a flashlight later and saw credit cards, earrings, wristwatches. Apparently, this has happened before. The “elevator people” don’t come out to look for lost items.

So, the next call was to the rental car company. They sent a locksmith who opened the car (so I could get my suitcase and rental car contract). But they could not cut a key that would start the engine. When you insert the key into the ignition, the ignition switch asks the key a question. If the key doesn’t answer correctly, you can turn on the electricity in the car (radio, air vents, windshield wipers, etc.), but you cannot make engine turn over.

This was turning into a most unluckiest thing.

The next call was back to the rental car company, which sent a tow-truck. I got to ride all the way back to the airport with the tow driver, a nice man named Mike or Joe or Stan or something like that. We talked about his troubled marriage most of the ride.

Back at the rental car company, I got to endure the “Oh-you’re-that-guy-who-lost-the-keys” routine for about 20 minutes. I got to tell the “most unluckiest thing I ever saw story” about five times. “Hey, Louise, you gotta hear this guy’s story. I never heard nothing like it before. Go on, Mr. Turner, tell her.”

Finally, on my way back to Santa Rosa, the fog had rolled in and was so thick I was across the bridge before I even knew I was on it! I met up with the guys and my sister and brother-in-law for a late dinner (especially for those of us on Eastern Standard Time). But the food we enjoyed and the conversations we had that night were so wonderful.

I learned that it’s possible to be unlucky and blessed at the same time.

One of the things I talked with the tow-truck driver about was the idea of happiness. He said his current relationship with his wife (she’s not really his wife, but they’ve been together for a long time and he refers to her as his wife) is frustrating at times. They have a good time together, but she came with baggage in the form of two failed marriages and four kids. He wonders if he’s missing out on something by staying with her. He wonders what it would be like to be with a woman who doesn’t have that kind of past or those kinds of responsibilities. He wonders what it would be like to have kids of his own. He was looking for someone to give him permission to get out.

He had talked to his dad, and his dad told him, “Just do whatever makes you happy.”

I said, “With all due respect, Stan, that’s terrible advice. I’m sure your father’s a fine man, and he means well. But you can’t just ‘do whatever makes you happy’. Life doesn’t work like that.”

Stan looked at me like I was an alien.

It was quiet, so I continued, “There’s got to be something deeper than happy. I’m not very happy right now because of the day I’ve had. Circumstances change. Someone could run a red light right now (we were on 19th Avenue by this time), and ram into your truck. You wouldn’t be happy anymore, right? Happiness allows other people too much control. Happiness isn’t internally regulated. It’s dependent upon too many other things that are out of my control.”

He was nodding his head and seemed to understand what I was saying, so I continued.

“There’s such a thing as joy, and joy doesn’t come and go based on the circumstances. Joy is often experienced ‘in spite of’ bad things that happen. A lot of times I find myself experiencing joy as a result of showing integrity. When I do what I said I was going to do – even though it got hard. When I don’t turn away from difficulties. When I keep a promise. When I tell the truth even though it would be easier to lie. Those things bring me joy – in spite of how things turn out. When I know I did the right thing I can look at myself in the mirror and know.”

By this time we were at the airport and had to say goodbye. I have no way of knowing whether my tow truck driver stayed in his “marriage” or not. But I do know that it’s possible to be unlucky and experience joy at the same time.

Evangelism is supposed to be about joy. It’s one person who has found the key to joy telling another person how it works. It’s a crying shame that people who sit next to me on airplanes feel like the most unluckiest person in all the world. It’s terrible that Christians feel anxiety over sharing the good news about Jesus.

This isn’t how it’s supposed to work.